Scientists from Temple University and the University of Nebraska Medical Center used a combination of CRISPR gene-editing technology and a therapeutic treatment called LASER ART to erase the HIV DNA from the genomes of living mice. This is an important step to potentially finding the cure for HIV in humans as well.
Dr. Kamel Khalili, study co-author, chair of the department of neuroscience and director of the Center for Neurovirology and the Comprehensive NeuroAIDS Center at Temple University, said: “We think this study is a major breakthrough because it for the first time demonstrates after 40 years of the AIDS epidemic that the HIV disease is a curable disease.”
Approximately 1.1 million people in the United States alone live with HIV. If HIV isn’t properly treated, it turns into AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). People suffering from AIDS live on average three more years after being diagnosed with the illness.
Currently, the virus is treated using ART (antiretroviral therapy), which merely suppresses the virus from further replication, and doesn’t actually destroy it. This CRISPR Technology, on the other hand, destroys the virus completely.
Dr. Howard Gendelman, co-author, chair of UNMC’s pharmacology and experimental neuroscience department and director of the Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, said: “We’re going at the root cause. We’re going after the virus that’s already integrated with the genome of the host cell. Things that work in mice, may not work in men. The limitations of any mouse work have to do with the species, how the drug is administered, the distribution, which is a lot easier than a man or a woman. We are at the cusp of a scientific revolution in human genomes that can change the course, quality, and longevity of life.”
The researchers are planning to conduct a phase 1 clinical trial in humans by mid-2020, pending approval by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).