Temple University researchers announced a major step forward in the battle against AIDS and the HIV virus.
Researchers successfully eliminated the HIV virus from cultured human cells for the first time.
“This is one important step on the path toward a permanent cure for AIDS,” says Kamel Khalili, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Neuroscience at Temple. “It’s an exciting discovery, but it’s not yet ready to go into the clinic. It’s a proof of concept that we’re moving in the right direction.”
Dr. Khalili along with his colleague, Wenhui Hu, MD, PhD, the Associate Professor of Neuroscience at Temple, led the groundbreaking research, which was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health. Khalili and his team created molecular tools to delete the HIV-1 proviral DNA. They used a combination of DNA-snipping enzyme called a nuclease and a targeting strand of RNA called a guide RNA (gRNA) to hunt down the viral genome and excise the HIV-1 DNA. The process allowed the cell’s gene repair machinery to take over, soldering the loose ends of the genome back together leading to virus-free cells.
“Since HIV-1 is never cleared by the immune system, removal of the virus is required in order to cure the disease,” says Khalili.
The process was successful in several types of cells that harbor HIV -1.
Doctors have used highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) to control HIV-1 for infected people in the developed world. But HAART can’t stop the virus during an interruption in treatment.
HIV-1 replication can still have health consequences even when it is controlled.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 33 million people are affected by HIV, with 50,000 Americans contracting the virus every year.
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