New molecular tools help terminate HIV in cultured human cells

Scientists have devised a way to delete the HIV-1 proviral DNA from cultured human cells, offering a potentially more permanent method of ridding the HIV virus.
Temple University scientists created "molecular tools" that can hunt the viral genome and terminate the HIV-1 DNA. 
The team -- led by Kamel Khalili, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Neuroscience at Temple University -- targeted the HIV virus by combining a DNA-snipping enzyme called a nuclease and a targeting strand of RNA called a guide RNA (gRNA).
The team created a 20-nucleotide strand of gRNA to target the HIV-1 DNA. The strands were next injected into HIV-infected cells, where they were able to extract the 9,709-nucleotides that make up the HIV-1 genome. The cell's gene repair machinery then fastens the loose ends of the genome back together, leaving it HIV free.
What's more is that since the gRNA strands don’t contain human DNA sequences, the host cells are protected from further cellular DNA damage.

The team found that this particular method was effective in several cell types that can harbor HIV-1, such as microglia and macrophages, as well as in T-lymphocytes.
"We are working on a number of strategies so we can take the construct into preclinical studies," said Khalili. "We want to eradicate every single copy of HIV-1 from the patient. That will cure AIDS. I think this technology is the way we can do it."
This particular method isn't quite ready for the clinic yet because the team must find a method of delivering the therapeutic agent to every single infected cell. Also, because HIV-1 can mutate, treatment may need to be individualized for each patient's viral sequences.
However, the research looks to be a potential upgrade from current methods. As of now, patients have to take a lifelong drug regimen to control the virus and prevent new attacks.
HIV research in the past has also proved to be promising, but still hasn’t hit the mainstream. For instance, doctors at the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Centre in Boston performed bone marrow transplants on two men with HIV, with neither needing to use AIDS drugs for extended periods of time since the operations. 
In 2013, researchers from Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) found that a vaccine cleared an aggressive form of HIV in half of all monkeys treated. 

Source: Temple University

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