Researchers uncover new method to eliminate HIV

Researchers have successfully removed HIV from cells in a laboratory, raising hopes for a cure.

Scientists were able to target HIV DNA using the gene-editing technique Crispr-Cas, which earned the Nobel Prize in 2020, and remove all remnants of the virus from afflicted cells.

Working essentially like scissors, the device can cut DNA at specific spots, allowing undesired genes to be removed or new genetic material to be inserted into cells.

The study’s authors stated that their goal was to create a robust and safe Crispr-Cas regimen capable of inactivating multiple HIV strains across a variety of cellular settings in order to achieve an inclusive HIV cure.

The scientists, led by Dr Elena Herrera-Carrillo and her team (Yuanling Bao, Zhenghao Yu, and Pascal Kroon) at Amsterdam UMC in the Netherlands.

They claimed to have created an effective attack on the virus in various cells and where it may be hiding.

They added: “these findings represent a pivotal advancement towards designing a cure strategy.’’

HIV can infect different types of cells and tissues in the body, and so the researchers are looking for a way to target the virus wherever it appeared.

In the new study, presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, the researchers focused on parts of the virus that stayed the same across all known HIV strains.

They said the approach aimed to provide a broad-spectrum therapy capable of combating multiple HIV variants effectively.

According to the researchers, their works represent proof of concept, and would not become a cure for HIV tomorrow.

They said the next steps involved optimising the delivery route to target the majority of the HIV reservoir cells.

The hope is to devise a strategy to make this system as safe as possible for future clinical applications, and achieve the right balance between efficacy and safety.

“Only then can we consider clinical trials of ‘cure’ in humans to disable the HIV reservoir.

“While these preliminary findings are very encouraging, it is premature to declare that there is a functional HIV cure on the horizon,’’ the researchers said.

 

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