Human Immuno Virus(HIV) is one of the deadliest viruses. According to the World Health Organization, even now, every year, 4 lakh people die from the HIV virus. Raising hopes for a cure to this deadly virus, researchers claim to have successfully eliminated HIV from the DNA of infected mice for the first time, bringing them one step closer to curing the virus in humans.
In a recent study published in the ‘Nature Communications’, researchers have revealed how a sequence of two treatments could completely remove the virus in mice.
In the study, researchers from Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine and the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) coupled genome editing technology with a slow-release virus suppression drug to eliminate HIV cells entirely from some infected mice. The five-year project included using a slow-acting drug called LASER ART that corners the virus, followed by CRISPR Cas9 gene-editing that blitzes it.
“Our study shows that treatment to suppress HIV replication and gene editing therapy, when given sequentially, can eliminate HIV from cells and organs of infected animals,” said Kamel Khalili, director of the center for neurovirology and the Comprehensive NeuroAIDS Center at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine, who is one of the study’s lead authors.
Currently, Antiretroviral therapy(ART) is one of the most commonly used treatment plans to fight HIV spread by attacking it at the cellular level and preventing it from multiplying. This treatment plan does not fully eliminate the virus from the system. Hence, it is not seen as a cure for HIV. However, continued use of ART can help patients diagnosed with HIV lead a better quality, healthier life for longer.
The new study was conducted on engineered mice which were replicated with human T-cells, the ones which are the most vulnerable to an HIV infection.
Once the mice were affected with HIV, scientists used a combination of methodologies to stop the virus from replicating. The strategy, known as long-acting slow-effective release antiretroviral therapy (LASER ART) was conducted in two parts- first, to suppress the spread and efficacy of the viral strain and in the second part, to eliminate the infected DNA strain from the body completely by using the CRISPR technology.
“The big message of this work is that it takes both CRISPR-Cas9 and virus suppression through a method such as LASER ART, administered together, to produce a cure for HIV infection,” Dr Khalili said. “We now have a clear path to move ahead to trials in non-human primates and possibly clinical trials in human patients within the year.”
While the latest findings indicate a significant step towards developing a cure for HIV, the authors noted that the approach may not produce the same results in humans.
“The limitations of any mouse work have to do with the species, how the drug is administered and the distribution, which is lot easier than in humans,” said another co-author, Dr Howard Gendelman.
Source: Medical News Today, TimesNow, Indian Express, Times of India, India Times.