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Scientists say they can cut HIV out of cells

Scientists say they have successfully eliminated HIV from infected cells, using Nobel Prize-winning CRISPR gene-editing technology.

Working like scissors, but at the molecular level, it cuts DNA so that “bad” bits can be removed or inactivated, they said, the hope being to ultimately be able to rid the body entirely of the virus, although much more work was needed to check if it would be safe and effective.

Existing HIV medicines can stop the virus but not eliminate it, reports BBC News.

The University of Amsterdam team said their work remains merely “proof of concept” and will not become a cure for HIV any time soon.

Last year, a biotechnology company called Excision BioTherapeutics in the US said it added the gene-editing tool to the bodies of three people with HIV and commanded it to cut, and destroy, the virus wherever it was hiding.

The early-stage study was a probing step toward the company’s eventual goal of curing HIV infection with a single intravenous dose of a gene-editing drug, and after 48 weeks, the three volunteers have no serious side effects.

Dr James Dixon, stem-cell and gene-therapy technologies associate professor at the University of Nottingham, said the full findings still require scrutiny.

“Much more work will be needed to demonstrate results in these cell assays can happen in an entire body for a future therapy,” he said.

“More development is needed before this could have an impact on people with HIV.”

‘Extremely challenging’

Dr Jonathan Stoye, a virus expert at the Francis Crick Institute, in London, said removing HIV from all cells that might harbour it in the body was “extremely challenging”.

“Off-target effects of the treatment, with possible long-term side effects, remain a concern,” he said. “It therefore seems likely that many years will elapse before any such CRISPT-based therapy becomes routine – even assuming that it can be shown to be effective.”

HIV infects and attacks immune-system cells, using their own machinery to make copies of itself.

Even with effective treatment, some go into a resting, or latent, state, so they still contain the DNA, or genetic material, of HIV, even if not actively producing new virus.

While most people with HIV need life-long antiretroviral therapy, a rare few have been apparently “cured”, after aggressive cancer therapy wiped out some of their infected cells – but this would never be recommended purely to treat HIV.


BBC News article – Scientists say they can cut HIV out of cells (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


American Gene Technologies HIV ‘cure’ claims are ‘unjustified hype’


Gene-editing to eliminate HIV DNA a significant step towards human clinical trials


CRISPR technology used to eliminate HIV virus in living mice





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