An important advance in the research to cure AIDS: Works done on mice revealed how a sequence of two treatments could completely eliminate the virus.
Today, you can live long with HIV. But none of the therapies used rids the body of the virus. They are limited to preventing the development of AIDS. However, studies done on mice published in Nature Communications raise hopes of finding a cure for HIV carriers.
This breakthrough is based on a sequence of two co-administered treatments. The first treatment is a form of long-acting slow-release antiretroviral therapy. The second involves the removal of viral DNA using a gene editing tool called CRISPR-Cas9.
The researchers tested this two-step approach in a mouse model with human HIV. “Among the mice that received LASER antiretroviral therapy followed by genetic editing, the virus was cleared from cell and tissue reservoirs in nearly one-third of infected rodents,” say the study’s authors.
But they specify that it is the combination of these two steps that brings these promising results: in mice treated only with LASER antiretroviral therapy as those treated only by gene editing, they recorded a viral rebound in 100% of the animals infected! “The big message of this work is that both CRISPR-Cas9 and the suppression of the virus are needed by a method such as LASER co-administered to cure HIV infection,” says Prof Kamel Khalil. lead author of the study.
How to decipher this new approach? HIV-positive people on antiretroviral therapy can live long lives in good health, but their bodies are not free of HIV and they need to take these drugs for life to prevent the spread of AIDS. Indeed these treatments prevent the virus to replicate but do not eliminate it. Similarly, a 2017 study by Prof. Khalil showed that using CRISPR-Cas9 significantly reduced viral load but failed to remove all traces of HIV.
The objective of the new study was therefore to see if LASER antiretroviral therapy was able to suppress HIV replication long enough for the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tool to have the time to completely rid the cells of the Viral DNA. This work on mice “opens the way for trials on primates and then tests on human patients within a year.”