MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2016

Study finds resistance to CRISPR/Cas9 platform when used to target HIV

This includes targeting multiple viral DNA regions or replacing Cas9 with other enzymes. | File photo
A recently published study found that the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing platform can inhibit viral replication through single mutations, but that viruses that escape the targeted approach become more difficult to target.

"Some mutations are tiny – only a single nucleotide – but the mutation changes the sequence so Cas9 cannot recognize it anymore,” Chen Liang, the study’s senior author and an associate professor of medicine at the McGill University AIDS Centre, said. “Such mutations do no harm to the virus, so these resistant viruses can still replicate.”

While the study, which was conducted by researchers from McGill University, the University of Montreal in Canada, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medial College, showed some potential resistance to the CRISPR/Cas9 platform, Liang believes that strategies to combat its limitations can be developed. This includes targeting multiple viral DNA regions or replacing Cas9 with other enzymes.

"CRISPR/Cas9 gives a new hope toward finding a cure, not just for HIV-1, but for many other viruses," Liang said. "We have a long road toward the goal, and there may be many barriers and limitations that we need to overcome, but we're confident that we will find success."

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