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Researchers have reported to find a HIV virus cure by successfully eliminating HIV virus in Mice models using CRISPR and LASER-ART therapy
In a major breakthrough, researchers have claimed to find a HIV virus cure by successfully eliminating the HIV virus in Mice models using CRISPR and long-acting slow-effective release (LASER) antiretroviral therapy (ART)—a recently developed slow acting virus suppression therapeutic strategy.
Combining the CRISPR with LASER-ART therapy, the researchers could eliminate HIV virus in mice cells completely.
Using either of the technology alone, resulted in 100% remission and made both technologies ineffective separately.
The huge research was led by Kamel Khalili from Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University and Howard Gendelman from the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
What is HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus which causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). It attacks T helper cells, which are a kind of immune cells taking part in body’s response to infections. The HIV virus fuses itself with the T helper cells and takes control of the genetic machinery of the cells. It then replicates itself into millions of copies, kills the cells and releases its clones into the blood stream. The clones or copies then are capable to infect new T helper cells individually and the process is started over again.
It continues so until the human immune system is destroyed the point where it cannot fight infections anymore. As a result, the patient gets infected with many infections and ultimately die.
According to UNAIDS, close to 40 million people are living with HIV in 2017 worldwide.
ART (Anti-retroviral Therapy)- not a HIV killer regimen
Currently, there is no HIV virus cure. Its treatment follows the prescription of Anti-retroviral drugs which helps reduce the viral load in the human body. The treatment is continued as long as the person lives because it does not kill the virus completely. It only stops the virus to replicate itself thereby preventing disease progression.
But, as soon as the treatment is skipped or halted, the virus come back with a full force. This is because the HIV virus injects its genetic material into the genome of immune cells which can help it multiply any time when favorable conditions are met.
To improve effectiveness of ART technology, researchers created new way for using ART. The researchers developed highly hydrophobic lipophilic viral reservoir penetrating antiretroviral prodrugs called Laser ART which are defined by slow drug dissolution, enhanced lipophilicity, improved bioavailability and limited off-target toxicities, which directly affect the frequency of ART administration from daily to weeks”.
The findings in current research involves sequential treatment of infected mice. The genetically engineered human T cell- HIV infected mice are first treated with LASER ART to reduce viral load to a minimum. Then the mice are treated with CRISPR to remove remnants of viral genome that has integrated itself into T cell genome.
The mice were kept under observation for couple of years and with secondary technologies researchers could confirm that the HIV genome was completely removed from the body of studied mice.
What is in future?
According to researchers, it is just a initial step and their future research will continue to make this technique suitable for human trials.
It may be a long time to see any hopeful results to find HIV virus cure in humans but at least a ray of hope has been seen. This one step will open multitude of opportunities to treat millions of people affected by HIV every year.
The original article was published in Nature Journal in July 2019. You can read it here.