Researchers at Temple University’s School of Medicine and a team at the University of Nebraska Medical Center say they have, for the first time, eliminated the DNA of HIV-1, the virus responsible for AIDS, from the genomes of living animals.
The technique involves 2 new technologies:
1. Gene editing known as CRISPR and
2. A therapy known as LASER ART, or long-acting slow-effective release anti-retroviral therapy.
The Temple scientists have previously used CRISPR-Cas9 to remove HIV DNA from genomes containing the virus. In mice and rats, they showed that gene editing large fragments of HIV DNA from infected cells could significantly suppress active infection and replication of the virus.
LASER ART is a longer-lasting version of the antiretroviral drugs which have helped save millions of lives. Antiretroviral drugs decrease but don’t entirely eliminate HIV in the body. They have to be taken for life, or the virus will rebound.
LASER drugs are made with nanocrystals, which easily move into the tissue where HIV hides and replicates. The nanocrystals can stay in tissue for weeks, slowly releasing their drug. It keeps that HIV reproduction at low levels for long periods of time, so standard antiretroviral drugs don’t have to be given as often.
But neither CRISP-Cas9 nor antiretroviral drugs alone can completely get rid of HIV. The Temple and Nebraska teams wanted to see if combining their techniques would work.