A research team at Temple University School of Medicine effectively deleted the HIV virus from human cells in the lab.
“The research findings we are now reporting could be a game changer in the fight against HIV and AIDS,” said Dr. Kamel Khalili in a video posted by EurekAlert. “The goal is to cure AIDS and the time is now.”
According to EurekAlert, scientists at the facility deployed a combination of a DNA-snipping enzyme (nuclease) and a targeting strand of RNA (guide RNA or gRNA) that hunts down the viral genome.
The combination of the nuclease and gRNA target the genome by removing the HIV-1 DNA. Once the genome is removed the cell’s repair machinery takes action and fuse the loose ends of the genome. Once the nuclease/gRNA combination leaves the cell what is left is an HIV-free cell.
“Current therapies have transformed AIDS into a chronic illness,” Dr. Khalili said in the video. “But the root of the problem, the virus, has not been eliminated, only suppressed.”
According to Dr. Khalili, 33 million people worldwide are living with the HIV virus and 1 million people in the United States live with the virus. There are 50,000 new infections every year in the United States.
According to EurkeAlert, Dr. Khalili says the treatment still faces many challenges before it is ready for patients. The main focus of the research was targeting T-cells, which are the most impacted by HIV. Also, he adds, since HIV-1 is prone to mutating, the techniques used for eradication would have to be tailored for the patient’s individual viral load.