For the first time, researchers have found a way to eliminate HIV from living animals.
The approach combines two new technologies: slow-release antiretroviral therapy (known as LASER ART) which first suppresses the virus, then gene editing (known as CRISPR-Cas9) which effectively ‘slices out’ HIV-infected DNA.
Dr. Kamel Khalili, at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, told the local CBS News affiliate that, “For the first time, we were able to eliminate completely replication competent virus, HIV, from the infected animal.”
While antiretroviral drugs can decrease HIV in the body, they don’t get the job done entirely. LASER ART drugs consist of nanocrystals which can easily penetrate tissue where HIV may be hiding and slowly release over time, keeping the virus at low levels for weeks.
This means traditional antiretroviral meds don’t have to be administered as often.
Working with a specialists at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the two teams were able to eliminate HIV in about a third of infected mice.
“The big message of this work is that it takes both CRISPR-Cas9 and virus suppression through a method such as LASER ART, administered together, to produce a cure for HIV infection,” Khalil told ABC News.
“The technique is very safe and efficient and able to completely eliminate the viral DNA forever,” he added.
The next step is to move to FDA-monitored testing on humans. A clinical trial is scheduled to begin in mid-2020.