OMAHA, Nebraska (KTIV) – A major step has been made in finding the cure for the HIV virus following an effort between the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) and researchers from Temple University.
On Tuesday researchers from UNMC and Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM) announced they have for the first time eliminated replication-competent HIV-1 DNA – the virus responsible for AIDS – from the genomes of living animals.
“This achievement could not have been possible without an extraordinary team effort that included virologists, immunologists, molecular biologists, pharmacologists, and pharmaceutical experts,” said Howard Gendelman, M.D., Margaret R. Larson Professor of Infectious Diseases and Internal Medicine, chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Neuroscience and director of the Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases at UNMC. “Only by pooling our resources together were we able to make this groundbreaking discovery.”
Current HIV treatment uses antiretroviral therapy (ART), which suppresses HIV replication but doesn’t eliminate the virus.
According to the study reported in the journal Nature Communications, researchers from UNMC used a slow-release, long-lasting formulation (LASER) ART to suppress the virus in infected mice. This was then followed with a gene-editing therapy from LKSOM, known as CRISPR-Cas9, that cuts viral DNA from their genomes.
Of the mice that received the treatment, about a third showed no signs of HIV infection for up to five weeks after treatment.
“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,” said Drs. Howard Gendelman and Khalili in a shared statement. “We now have a clear path to move ahead to trials in non-human primates and possibly clinical trials in human patients within the year.”