Molecular Scissors Cut HIV from a Human Cell
Can we literally cut HIV from the body? Researchers from Temple University have used what they call "molecular scissors" to cut a dormant HIV virus from a human cell, potentially bringing us one step closer to a cure for HIV/AIDS.
The research is still in its infancy, especially since the researchers were unable to replicate the results in every cell with which they worked. "There is no demonstration yet that it has worked in a person, so caution is appropriate," said Clyde Crumpacker, an AIDS researcher at Harvard Medical School's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "But it is a very intriguing paper about a possible strategy for an HIV cure. This is a timely 'proof of concept' paper."
The new gene editing technology is called CRISPR, in which "guide RNA" finds latent HIV and an enzyme that behaves similarly to scissors removes it. They were able to eliminate the HIV within the cell's DNA while leaving all of the other genes intact.
"We were able to remove everything which encodes the virus – close to 99 percent of the HIV genome," said Kamel Khalili, lead neurovirologist on the project. "What is left has no capacity to do anything. It's just junk DNA."
A cure for HIV has been on the forefront of the medical field as of late; last month, UC San Francisco researchers announced that they were attempting to use stem cells in order to give individuals a genetic mutation that could give rise to HIV immunity. Today, researchers in Denmark successfully forced dormant HIV out of hiding using chemotherapy drugs, making it more likely that we can excise all of the virus from a person's body. Hopefully, all of these advancements in HIV research will lead to a more effective treatment and possibly a cure.