Scientists from Temple University's Lewis Katz School of Medicine recently developed a specialized gene editing system that can erase HIV-1 from human T-cells, potentially making a cure for patients with HIV infections.
The study, available online in the Nature journal, suggests that the researchers can safely and efficiently eliminate HIV from human cell DNA in a culture setting.
"The findings are important on multiple levels," Dr. Kamel Khalili, director of the Center for Neurovirology at Temple, said. "They demonstrate the effectiveness of our gene editing system in eliminating HIV from the DNA of CD4 T-cells and, by introducing mutations into the viral genome, permanently inactivating its replication. Further, they show that the system can protect cells from reinfection and that the technology is safe for the cells, with no toxic effects."
Multiple HIV copies allow the virus to spread throughout the body and beat down the immune system. This eventually causes AIDS, which has claimed over 25 million people deaths since the 1980s.
"Antiretroviral drugs are very good at controlling HIV infection,” Khalili said. “But patients on antiretroviral therapy who stop taking the drugs suffer a rapid rebound in HIV replication."