Since AIDS epidemic began in the 1980s, researchers have approached the search for a cure for HIV infection from many directions. Unfortunately, everything done over the past 38 years to try to cure HIV and AIDS has failed, leaving the impression that the disease is incurable. Now, a new study done by researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Temple University may show that the virus has been successfully eliminated from the genomes of living animals for the first time.
The results of the study have been published in Nature Communications. Prasanta Dash, an instructor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, is listed as first author on the paper. Dr. Howard Gendelman, director of the Center for Neurodegenerative Disorders at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and Kamel Khalili, director of the Comprehensive NeuroAIDS Center and the Center for Neurovirology at Temple University, are acknowledged as senior authors. The study lists more than 30 authors.
The University of Nebraska Medical Center team developed a therapeutic approach to lower HIV replication called long-acting slow effective release antiviral therapy (LASER ART). The team at Temple University developed a way to use the CRISPR gene-editing tool to excise HIV in infected animal cells. By using LASER ART to reduce the amount of viral DNA in infected humanized mice and CRISPR to clear the remaining viral DNA, the researchers were able to eliminate HIV in up to one-third of the infected animals in their study.
The teams tested the blood, bone marrow, brain, and lymphoid tissue of the infected humanized mice for HIV. They didn’t find any in about a third of the mice that were treated with the combined approach for up to five weeks after treatment. By comparison, the researchers could readily detect HIV in mice that had received either therapy separately. Dr. Gendelman said, “This is proof of concept that a cure of HIV is possible.”