The HIV cure is getting closer thanks to the CRISPR-Cas9 technique

Scientists at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University and the University of Nebraska Medical Center have been able to eliminate HIV-1 DNA from the mouse genome for the first time.

The human immunodeficiency virus, better known as HIV, is responsible for infecting the cells of the immune system and changing their functioning or eliminating them. This virus surprised the entire scientific community when it appeared in the 80s because of its rapid spread and the impossibility of a cure. Currently, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 37 million people worldwide have HIV.

However, after decades of research, and thanks to technological and scientific progress, it has been possible to stop the development of the disease thanks to novel treatments although there is still no vaccine to eradicate it. In this context, a project carried out by researchers from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University and the Medical Center of the University of Nebraska have succeeded in eliminating for the first time the DNA of HIV-1, responsible for the genome of mice of AIDS.

All this has been thanks to the CRISPR-Cas9 technique, or the famous molecular scissors, whose discovery took place in 1993 thanks to Dr. Francis Mojica. It is a molecular biology tool that serves to cut and paste DNA. It was listed in 2015 as the most important scientific breakthrough according to the journal Science.
Currently, the most commonly used treatment for HIV is antiretrovirals that are responsible for suppressing virus replication but do not expel it from the body. If treatment is stopped, the body will reactivate the virus. Through this study, researchers have used a combined gene therapy and antiretroviral therapy.

The study, which has been published in the journal Nature, is a before and after in the future of HIV because it could be a great step for the development of an effective cure. “Our research shows that treatment to suppress HIV replication and gene editing therapy, when administered sequentially, can eliminate HIV from the cells and organs of infected animals,” said Kamel Khalili, a researcher at the Temple University and one of the leaders of the study.

In this sense, “the modified drug was packaged in nanocrystals that are easily distributed in tissues where HIV is likely to remain dormant. From there, they slowly release the medicine, ”said Howard Gendelman, another of the study’s principal investigators.

We are getting closer to achieving the cure against HIV. In October last year, another research carried out by scientists from the Gregorio Marañón Hospital in Madrid and the IrsiCaixa Research Institute in Barcelona was key in the fight against this virus. The team was able to eliminate the presence of the HIV virus in five patients thanks to stem cell transplantation.

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