The number of people that are being affected by Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV all over the world remains countless every year. The devastating part is that these individuals have to live with this virus with no hopes of getting permanently cured of it. Despite constant failure in finding a permanent cure for the detrimental HIV, medical professionals, scientists, and researchers always keep their hopes high in finding a breakthrough. Fortunately, they might have found their first step in finding a cure for the HIV infection.
Recently, researchers at the Temple University, Philadelphia, managed to successfully eliminate HIV-infected human immune cells in mice. Three animal models and a gene editing technology (CRISPR/Cas9) were used to treat and excise HIV-1 provirus. The mice were transplanted with human cells and then injected with HIV. Later, CRISPR/Cas9 was used to eliminate HIV DNA from the genetically modified rodents.
The research was conducted by a team of doctors that included Kamel Khalili, Ph.D., Dr. Wenhui Hu, Ph., and Won-Bin Young Ph.D. and it was published in the journal Molecular Therapy. They claimed, “Our new study is more comprehensive. We confirmed the data from our previous work and have improved the efficiency of our gene editing strategy. We also show that the strategy is effective in two additional mouse models, one representing acute infection in mouse cells and the other representing chronic or latent, infection in human cells.”
Researchers and scientists have been dealing with finding a cure for the HIV for more than 30 years now and have gained a vast knowledge on the various facets of HIV. What makes HIV so tough to cure is the ability of its genome to infect the whole cells once inside of the human cells. Kamel Khalili added, “Unfortunately, we have been unable to eliminate the virus and there is obviously no reliable and good vaccine for the prevention of the infection…The current therapy that’s in the clinic is suppressing virus replication but it doesn’t eliminate.”
For the first time, Khalili and his team of researchers brought about good news as well with their halting the replication of HIV-1 virus and completely excising it from the infected cells in mice. They also emphasized on the evidence of using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology to successfully eliminate HIV-1 virus from the human cells in mice. The team anticipates a cure for HIV/AIDS within the next 10 years as these findings presented a major breakthrough in finding an HIV cure.
This team of researchers at the Temple University is on to their next stage of finding the cure for HIV and is likely to conduct the same experiment on primates, and finally in human subjects. Khalili concluded, “The next stage would be to repeat the study in primates, a more suitable animal model where HIV infection induces disease, in order to further demonstrate the elimination of HIV-1 DNA in latently infected T cells and other sanctuary sites for HIV-1, including brain cells. Our eventual goal is a clinical trial in human patients.”