July 3, 2019 - 10:57 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Researchers have successfully eliminated HIV from the DNA of infected mice, a promising step toward a cure for the nearly 37 million people living with the virus, CNN reports.
In a study published Tuesday, July 2 in Nature Communications, 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.
Current HIV treatment cannot eliminate the virus entirely but does suppress its replication. Antiretroviral therapy, or ART, requires lifelong use to stall the virus' spread and, as a May study found, can potentially end the transmission of HIV between sexual partners.
Testing their methods on a group of infected "humanized mice," or rodents engineered to produce human T cells susceptible to HIV, researchers administered a treatment called LASER ART, or long-acting, slow-effective release ART, to suppress HIV cells from replicating.
The team modified the drug for a slow release across several weeks, targeting tissue in the spleen, bone marrow and brain where latent HIV reservoirs, or clusters of inactive HIV cells, were likely to occur.
To eliminate the remaining infective cells from the subject's DNA, they employed a gene editing tool called CRISPR-Cas9.
The process allowed the teams to "clean segments of the genome" and remove the HIV chromosome, co-author Kamel Khalili told CNN.
By the study's end, researchers had successfully eliminated the virus from nine out of 23 mice.