Could "Molecular Scissors" Be The Key To Curing HIV?
Researchers at Dresden's Technical University believe they're latest findings could ultimately crack the code on eradicating the virus.
Dresden team leader Professor Frank Buchholz said the 'molecular scissors' could be ready to use in ten years - as a somatic genetic therapy (using a patient's own genetically altered cells).
"Blood would be taken from patients and the stem cells which can form blood cells, removed," he said.
Laboratory work would introduce the crucial HIV-cutting enzyme into the stem cells, altering their DNA. They would then be put back into the patient.
The theory is that the genetically altered immune cells would reproduce, cut the HIV from infected cells - enabling them to function again.
This was the effect seen at least in part, among the mice.
"The amount of virus was clearly reduced, and even no longer to be found in the blood," said Hauber.
According to the report, several mice have been successfully cured of HIV through the use of the treatment. Whether or not the technique will successfully work in humans remains to be seen as money for clinical trials is not currently available.
Professor Joachim Hauber, head of the antiviral strategy section at partner research institute, Hamburg's Heinrich Pette Institute, laments:
"The potential is not being used," he said, claiming that pharmaceutical companies have until now shown little interest in investing in potential cures for Aids.
He and Buchholz said they would be looking for sponsors and public money for their future research.
For those of you that are looking for a more technical explanation of the "molecular scissors" treatment:
The Dresden team have managed to create this enzyme - via mutation and selection - so that it identifies HIV.
"The HI-pathogen is a retrovirus which gets into the genetic substance in DNA," said Buchholz. Certain recombinase-class enzymes can cut up the DNA double helix and put it back together again in a different pattern.
The researchers have managed to manipulate the enzyme so that it can identify a particular sequence and remove it - and they say it is more than 90 percent effective in identifying the HI-virus in this way.
Got all that? Identify the sequence and destroy it, while keeping the rest of the cell healthy and intact.
What do you think of this latest development, Instincters? How can we ensure that the proper funding goes towards studies of this sort so that more progress can be made?