Could a cure for HIV be in sight? New research has revealed how a sequence of two treatments could completely remove the virus in mice.
Scientists have edited mice's genomes and removed HIV completely.
The first treatment is a long-acting slow-effective release (LASER) form of antiretroviral therapy.
The second treatment involves the removal of viral DNA using a gene editing tool called CRISPR-Cas9.
In a recent Nature Communications paper, the researchers describe how they tested the two-step approach in a mouse model of human HIV.
Of the mice that received LASER antiretroviral therapy followed by gene editing, the "virus was eliminated from cell and tissue reservoirs in up to a third of infected animals," note the authors.
In contrast, treating mice with either LASER antiretroviral therapy or gene editing — but not both — "resulted in viral rebound in 100% of treated infected animals."
"The big message of this work," says co-senior study author Kamel Khalili, Ph.D., of the Lewis Katz School of Medicine (LKSOM) at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, "is that it takes both CRISPR-Cas9 and virus suppression through a method such as LASER [antiretroviral therapy], administered together, to produce a cure for HIV infection."
Khalili is a professor in LKSOM's department of neuroscience and its chair. He is also the director of LKSOM's Center for Neurovirology and of its Comprehensive NeuroAIDS Center.
HIV can hide in a dormant state
According to the most recent figures from UNAIDS, worldwide, 36.9 million people were living with HIV in 2017. In the same year, around 1.8 million contracted the virus.