Scientists have discovered a “promising cure” for HIV after the researchers managed to almost ‘entirely’ eliminate the devastating immune disease from infected mice.
The researchers from Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University completely shut down the virus and eliminated it from the tissues of the mice which had been transplanted with human immune cells and infected with HIV.
The research was published in the journal Molecular Therapy.
The experts further added that they had demonstrated the “feasibility and efficiency” of removing the HIV-1 provirus using a gene-editing technique called Crispr.
It is understood that the new technique – called Crispr/Cas9 – involves targeting the genetic code of HIV which inserts itself into cells.
Scientists take a protein called Cas9 and modify it so it can recognise viral code, Telegraph reports.
Blood is then extracted from the patient – or in this case a mouse – and the Cas9 protein added where it seeks out the HIV DNA in immune cells. Once it finds it, it releases an enzyme which removes the sequence, effectively snipping out the virus. The healthy modified cells would the be transfused back into the patient.
They admitted there were still some practical problems to be overcome, but suggested their work was a “significant step” towards carrying out clinical trials of the technique on humans.
The latest experiment, which was led by Dr Wenhui Hu, follows on from same team’s previous research, in which they managed to delete HIV-1 from the genome of most tissues.
“Our new study is more comprehensive,” said Dr Hu.
“We confirmed the data from our previous work and have improved the efficiency of our gene editing strategy. We also show that the strategy is effective in two additional mouse models, one representing acute infection in mouse cells and the other representing chronic, or latent, infection in human cells.”
The researchers are now hoping to move to trials in primates, and eventually humans, which could begin before 2020.
“The next stage would be to repeat the study in primates, a more suitable animal model where HIV infection induces disease, in order to further demonstrate elimination of HIV-1 DNA in latently infected T cells and other sanctuary sites for HIV-1, including brain cells,’ said Prof Kamel Khalili, of the Department of Neuroscience at Lewis Katz.
“Our eventual goal is a clinical trial in human patients.”