Using Crispr/Cas Technology to Remove HIV Viruses from Cells with Genetic Scissors

With Crispr/Cas technology
HI viruses were excised from cells using genetic scissors

Diseases caused by HIV are among the most common causes of death in the world. For now, the infected can be well treated with medication. However, the cure is known only in isolated cases. But a research team is now taking a giant step toward getting there.

A research team from the Netherlands managed to remove all traces of the HIV virus from cell cultures for the first time in the laboratory using Crispr/Cas genetic scissors. In the future, the Nobel Prize-winning gene-editing technology could help treat people infected with the so-called human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV for short, and thus prevent the risk of immune deficiency disease outbreaks. The team's findings, led by Elena Herrera-Carrillo from the University Medical Center Amsterdam, “represent a significant advance in the treatment of HIV,” the statement said.

HI viruses are so-called retroviruses. These can transcribe their genetic material, RNA, into the infected cell's DNA, which is then incorporated into the host cell's genome. On the one hand, this makes it difficult for the immune system to fight against HIV viruses. On the other hand, internalized viral DNA can be used as a template for the production of new virus particles. Although viral replication can be successfully suppressed by medication, viruses persist in some immune cells for a long time. If therapy is interrupted, the number of viruses increases again, and with it the risk of developing AIDS in those infected. That's why researchers around the world are looking for a method that can cure people infected with HIV.

Hope for modern genetic technology

With research results to be presented at this year's European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Barcelona, ​​the research team points to a possible way forward. Crispr/Cas gene editing technology enables precise changes in the genome of living organisms. The technology can be used to specifically target and modify certain sections of DNA. This means that unwanted genes are removed or replaced with other genetic material. That is why the process is often called molecular scissors or genetic scissors.

Because HIV viruses can infect different types of cells and tissues in the body, the research team decided to focus on HIV-infected immune cells, so-called T cells. By focusing on specific regions common to all HIV strains, this approach aims to provide a broad-spectrum therapy that can effectively fight multiple HIV variants. The method is also designed to effectively eliminate HIV viruses that are hidden in body reservoirs. This worked well in the lab.

A therapy approach against other viruses is also conceivable

“The presented work gives hope for further applications of Crispr/Cas9 technology, not only for HIV, but potentially for other viral diseases that represent a major public health problem worldwide,” said geneticist Alena Pence from the University of Hertfordshire, according to of research. Science Media Center Great Britain.

According to the authors, the results of the study represent “a decisive advance in the development of treatment strategies.” However, much work is still needed to show that the results of these cellular tests can work for future therapies throughout the body, said gene therapy expert James Dixon of the University of Nottingham, according to SMC.

Leave a Comment