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Researchers Successfully Removed HIV From DNA in Human Immune Cells Using Gene-Editing Technology

An eventual cure for patients infected with HIV looks promising!

| 2 min read

An eventual cure for patients infected with HIV looks promising!

A team of scientists at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University has used a specialized gene-editing system, CRISPR/Cas9, to remove HIV out of the DNA in human immune cells, thus preventing the reinfection of unedited cells.

The much talked about CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technique, has been successfully used in previous studies, and has now been put to use in tackling the devastating affects of HIV.

SEE ALSO: Deleting These 238 Genes Could Significantly Extend Your Life

Human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, is a virus that attacks the immune system by infecting specialized cells called T cells. The virus inserts its RNA into T Cells, which gets converted once into DNA copies using the cell's own molecular machinery. These copies of viral DNA eventually leave the cell and go on to infect other T cells within the body.

The viral DNA also leads to the destruction of the cell it infected, making T cells unable to fulfill their purpose within the immune system. This suppression makes an HIV-infected individual more prone to get opportunistic infections. The immune system’s vulnerability eventually lead to AIDS, the final stage of the HIV infection, which according to UNICEF, is the second leading cause of death among adolescents.

“The findings are important on multiple levels,” The senior investigator of the new study, Kamel Khalili, said in a statement, “They demonstrate the effectiveness of our gene-editing system in eliminating HIV from the DNA of CD4 T cells and, by introducing mutations into the viral genome, permanently inactivating its replication. Further, they show that the system can protect cells from reinfection and that the technology is safe for the cells, with no toxic effects.”

“These experiments had not been performed previously to this extent,” Khalili added, “But the questions they address are critical, and the results allow us to move ahead with this technology.”

HIV has claimed the lives of more than 25 million people since it was first discovered back in 1983. This novel gene-editing technique has the potential to save millions of people infected with HIV in the future!  The results of the study have been published in Scientific Reports.

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