May 02, 2017 09:21 AM EDT
There's new hope for HIV patients as scientists from Temple University said they were able to eliminate HIV DNA from lab rats using the gene editing tool, CRISPR.
In collaboration with researchers from the University of Pittsburgh researchers, Temple scientists build on previous experiments where the HIV virus can be eliminated from cells grown in lab dishes.
For years, scientists have been trying to find an effective and permanent cure for HIV infection. The process has been arduous and challenging because the virus can create an infection in cells waiting to be activated.
Present-day medication against HIV is just temporary because what they do is suppress the replication of the virus so that only a few cells are infected. However, when a patient stops taking the HIV drugs, the virus becomes active again and wreck havoc in the immune system.
The Temple University research is a first-of-its-kind because it shows that the HIV virus can be completely shut down and never continue with its destructive course. They were able to accomplish this through the use of the gene editing tool, CRISPR and a combination of a guide RNA and a special enzyme. The guide RNA searches for the HIV virus while the enzyme acts like a molecular scissor that snips out the virus.
The team tested the method in two lab rats where one represents a newly infected host while the other represents a chronic and latent infection of the virus.
In the first model, Dr. Kamel Khalili, one of authors of the study and a Laura H. Carnell Professor and Chair of the Department of Neuroscience, Director of the Center for Neurovirology, and Director of the Comprehensive NeuroAIDS Center at Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple, explained that they were able to block viral replication and prevent systemic infection.
In the second model, the mice were carrying latent HIV genomes of human T cells, which can go undetected. However, the scientists were able to successfully remove infected human tissues that were embedded in the organs and tissues of lab rats.
The scientists say their next step is to conduct the same experiment in primates because they are closely similar to HIV infections in humans.
The study is published in the journal Molecular Therapy.
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