HIV Cure A Step Closer: Scientists Successfully Removed Virus' DNA From Living Tissue

First Posted: May 23, 2016 04:00 AM EDT

For the first time scientists have been able to remove the HIV virus' DNA from living tissue, in a reportedly breakthrough experiment. The research result could act as a curative approach for HIV patients, and could even be the steps to finding an outright cure. At the moment, HIV patients are treated with drugs that curb the virus levels so that the immune system of the body can cope up.

Recently, according to a report, US based researchers from the Temple University have revealed that the DNA of the commonest HIV-1 strain could be removed from several organs of infected rodents using a gene editing technology. In April, the same team of researchers had successfully removed the virus from human cells in a laboratory; however the recent work is the first instance where they have managed to attain the same result in living animals.

"In a proof of concept study, we showed that our gene editing technology can be effectively delivered to many organs of two small animal models and excise large fragments of viral DNA from the host cell genome," said Professor Kamel Khalili, team leader of the research. "The capability of the rAAV delivery system to enter many organs containing the HIV-1 genome and edit the viral DNA is a significant indication that this strategy can also overcome viral reactivation from latently infected cells and potentially serve as a curative approach for patients with HIV".

The antiretroviral drugs that are available now cannot remove HIV-1 from the infected cells. Furthermore, if there is an interruption in treatment then the virus can start to replicate immediately, which threatens patients with the risk of developing full-blown AIDS. According to a statement by the Temple University, the consequences of the new study were far reaching, and the gene editing process could be able to eliminate HIV-1 DNA from patients.

Moreover, the gene editing process is flexible and could be used together with prevalent antiretroviral drugs to subdue the viral RNA further, apart from being adapted to work on mutated HIV-1 strains. For now, Khalili believes that a clinical trial could take place in a couple of years, however before that he wants to do a similar research on a larger group of animals.

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