Ever since the 80’s HIV/AIDS has been one of the scariest viruses to plague humans. Over the past few decades science has made leaps and bounds in helping prevent the spread and transmission of the virus. Genetics is joining with the fight against HIV/AIDS. The Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University and University of Nebraska Medical Center are helping add to the triumphs over HIV/AIDs.
Current HIV treatments focus on suppressing HIV replication through antiretroviral therapy. While being a key factor in preventing the spread of HIV, it does not remove HIV from infected tissues. HIV integrates itself into the human immune systems genome. A team of geneticists under the supervision of Dr. Khalili have developed a form of gene therapy to target this very integration.
Using CRISPR-Cas9 technology Dr. Khalili’s team has been able to remove HIV DNA from the immune systems of rats and mice. This technique has been implemented using a type of therapy called long-acting slow-effective release, or LASER for short. This specific therapy along with antiretroviral therapy, combine to target the difficult-to-reach HIV DNA residing in the immune system. LASER antiretroviral therapy reduced HIV replication so much that CRISPR-Cas9 could completely eliminate viral DNA in one third on infected mice. “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,” says Dr. Khalili.