A major breakthrough in HIV treatment could be on the horizon after researchers revealed that they had managed to remove the HIV virus completely from mice.
In a new study released this month, the authors claimed that this is the first time the virus has ever been completely eradicated from a living animal’s genomes.
The paper was published in Nature Communications, and it detailed how they used two treatments together to remove the HIV virus.
Medical News Today explained that the first treatment involves a long-acting slow-effective release (LASER) type of antiretroviral therapy. When this was administered in conjunction with a second treatment – the removal of the viral DNA using a gene editing tool – the researchers were able to remove the virus in one-third of the animals.
In the mice that were treated with either the gene editing or the LASER therapy, there was a 100 per cent “viral rebound”.
Professor and chair of neuroscience at Temple University in Philadelphia, and co-senior author of the study, Kamel Khalili told CBS News that the important takeaway from their work is that both therapies need to be used to effectively remove HIV from the body.
The success of these trials in mice has now paved the way for further research, he added. “We now have a clear path to move ahead to trials in nonhuman primates and possibly clinical trials in human patients within the year,” he asserted.
The news provider explained that the difference between this new LASER antiretroviral therapy and the antiretroviral therapies currently taken by those with HIV is its long-lasting nature.
LASER antiretroviral drugs are placed in nanocrystals, which are able to travel to tissues in the body where the virus can be lying dormant. These nanocrystals are stored in the cells for a number of weeks, where they slowly release the drugs and fight the dormant virus.
The gene editing system, called CRISPR-Cas9, is a new treatment that “removes large fragments of HIV DNA from infected cells”, the news provider explained.
The reason for using the two treatments together is that the LASER antiretroviral drugs buy time for the gene editing to work. The drugs suppress the replication of the HIV virus, allowing for the removal of HIV DNA using gene editing, Medical News Today explained.
According to data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) last year, there were approximately 36.9 million people around the world living with HIV at the end of 2017, while 1.8 million people were newly infected in 2017.
Of those living with HIV, it’s estimated that 59 per cent of adults and 52 per cent of children are taking lifelong antiretroviral therapy.
While it’s still considered a major global public health issue, rates of HIV infection have been falling. WHO revealed that between 2000 and 2017, new infections dropped by 36 per cent and HIV related deaths dropped by 38 per cent.
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