Published: Thu, July 04, 2019
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Fresh hope for HIV cure as new drug eliminates virus in mice

Fresh hope for HIV cure as new drug eliminates virus in mice

Genetically engineered mice, created to be susceptible to HIV, were infected with the virus and then treated with both methods.

"Those early cases were patients of mine", Gendelman said.

For the new study, Khalili and his colleagues combined the gene editing system with a recently developed therapeutic strategy known as long-acting slow-effective release (LASER) ART. LASER limits HIV replication to low levels for extended periods of time, potentially allowing time for the gene editing phase of the test to kick in.

Researchers administered a treatment called LASER ART to suppress the HIV cells from replicating. However, research on animals may not produce the same results in humans. "We will continue testing", he says. HIV rebound is directly attributed to the ability of the virus to integrate its DNA sequence into the genomes of cells in the immune system, where it lies dormant and beyond the reach of antiretroviral drugs.

Members of the UNMC research team included: Back row (left-right) - James Hilaire, Brady Sillman, Ph.D., Larisa Poluektova, M.D., Ph.D., Santhi Gorantla, Ph.D., Benson Edagwa, Ph.D., and Hang Su; Front row - R. Lee Mosley, Ph.D., JoEllyn McMillan, Ph.D., Howard Gendelman, M.D., Prasanta Dash, Ph.D., Saumi Mathews, Ph.D., Mary Banoub, and Zhiyi Lin.

First, they eliminated it in two out of seven, then in three out of six, then in four out of 10. CRISPR-Cas9 is a gene editing tool that's been hailed as a breakthrough technology, as it has the potential of curing genetic diseases.

No one said it was going to be easy to find a cure for HIV - but this multifaceted approach offers a glimpse into how it might actually be done.

"You're probably looking at seven to 10 years from where we're at now with this discovery the 'reporting discovery stage, ' " said Dr. Michael Dixon of the UNeMed Corp.

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After recording success with the technique in lab mice, the team is now testing the method on monkeys and hope to commence clinical trial for humans in 2020.

Their peers are also impressed, but call for a wider pool of animals - and, indeed, humans - before the technique can get the stamp of approval.

Gendelman said the study was still important because it shows that sterilisation of HIV in living animals is possible.

"HIV is very clever in that it embeds its own genetic code into cells which, when activated, can make more virus".

'However, the number of mice used in the study is small and further trials will be needed to confirm this initial but exciting proof-of-concept study.

The drug also prevents multiplication of the virus in the body.

The executive director of the Nebraska AIDS Project, Brent Koster, says these findings are a glimmer of hope for the 40 million people around the world that live with HIV/AIDS.

But ART can not get at the hidden reservoirs where HIV's reserves lie.

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