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Scientists Discover Potential Cure For HIV Using CRISPR

Scientists may be one step closer to curing HIV.

A new published study claims that scientists have managed to cure mice of HIV using gene-editing tools.

On May 3, Daily Mail reported that a study done in joint effort with Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University and the University of Pittsburgh was the first time scientists have managed to completely eliminate the disease in an animal model.

In order to break down this study, one must understand how HIV manifests itself and the means in which scientists managed to stop that manifestation.

The Independent explained that as of right now, the only treatment for HIV is medication that can stop the HIV from further replicating in the body and producing AIDS -- but there are latent reservoirs that continue replicating.

Latent reservoirs are what put HIV/AIDS apart from other diseases. While most diseases function and replicate on their own, HIV has the ability to hide and integrate itself into a host cell, also referred to as a latent reservoir, and replicate as part of the host. This ultimately makes it invisible and ensures that the viral genome is carried over into future generations, Very Well explains.

So if a patient stops taking the drugs, they are at high risk of getting the disease at full throttle.

So how did these scientists address this? explains the method this lab used, known as CRISPR-Cas9, which edits genetics.

This technology functions as a repair tool that can remove, add or alter sections of DNA sequence.

While there are other systems that do similar things, CRISPR-Cas9 is reportedly the fastest and cheapest method to edit genes, not to mention the most accurate.

In this specific study, researchers in the lab used CRISPR-Cas9 to completely remove the HIV DNA from cells in the mice, preventing further spread and replication.

The study was done on three genetically unique groups of mice in order to study the effects in detail.

The first pool of mice was infected with HIV-1, the second was a pool of mice infected with the mouse equivalent version of human HIV-1. After using CRISPR-Cas9, both of these groups resulted in 95 percent elimination of the disease.

Quite possibly the most important group of mice that were tested were those that were engrafted with human immune cells, and were therefore essentially humanized. To make it even more realistic to human reaction, scientists ensured that T cells were included in the engrafting, which are often used as latent reservoirs by the diseased cells, as explained above.

With only one treatment of CRISPR-Cas9 on the third group, scientists concluded that it completely removed the virus from any infected human cells, including T cells.

Dr. Kamel Khalili, one of authors of the study according to Temple University, said: "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."

 "Our eventual goal is a clinical trial in human patients." 

Sources:, Very Well, Daily Mail, The Independent, Temple University / Photo credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases via Wikimedia Commons

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