Researchers on Tuesday claimed to have successfully eliminated HIV from the DNA of an infected mice for the first time.
A research published in the journal Nature Communications said that a combination of CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool with a slow-release virus suppression drug also called as LASER ART –
led to the elimination of HIV cells entirely from some infected mice.
Scientists from Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine in Philadelphia
and the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha in United States called this an unprecedented study, according to CNBC.
“We think this study is a major breakthrough because it for the first time demonstrates after 40 years of the AIDS epidemic that the HIV disease is a curable disease,” study co-author Dr Kamel Khalili was quoted as saying.
However, another co-author Dr Howard Gendelman said things may not be the same for human beings. “The limitations of any mouse work have to do with the species, how the drug is administered, the distribution, which is a lot easier than a man or a woman,” he added.
Gendelman said the study was still important because it shows that sterilisation of HIV in living animals is possible.
Both the authors said that there was still much work that needs to be finished before the method can be tested on humans.
In March, researchers had announced that a second person had been effectively cured of HIV after a stem cell transplant successfully eliminated any trace of the virus from his blood. This had sparked hope among other patients.
What is HIV?
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. Since the virus was first discovered in the 1980s, more than 75 million people worldwide have been infected with HIV. Almost 37 million people live with HIV. Of these, about 1.1 million live in the United States.
Infection with HIV almost always led to AIDS, which in turn was almost always fatal. The field was revolutionised in 1996 with the introduction of HIV anti-retroviral therapy medications. These drugs halt HIV from replicating and allow an infected person to regain a functioning immune system. These medications are so effective that a person living with HIV has almost the same life expectancy as someone without HIV infection.
Yet even with this life-extending treatment, a functional HIV cure, defined as when someone with HIV no longer tests positive for the virus and does not need to take these medications, has remained elusive.