July 10, 2024

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Scientists Utilise Crispr to Eradicate HIV from Infected Cells

Researchers report the successful elimination of HIV from infected cells using the revolutionary Crispr gene-editing technology, which earned its creators a Nobel Prize. Operating akin to molecular scissors, Crispr cuts DNA, allowing the removal or deactivation of undesirable segments. While this breakthrough offers hope for eradicating the virus from the body, extensive safety and efficacy assessments are imperative before clinical application.

While current HIV medications can suppress the virus, they cannot eradicate it entirely. Presenting preliminary findings at a medical conference, the University of Amsterdam team underscores that their work represents a “proof of concept” and is far from offering a definitive cure for HIV. Dr. James Dixon from the University of Nottingham emphasises the necessity for comprehensive scrutiny of the complete findings, cautioning that significant advancements are necessary before translating laboratory results into viable therapies.

Several research groups, including Excision BioTherapeutics, are exploring Crispr-based approaches against HIV. Excision BioTherapeutics reports promising outcomes, with three HIV-positive volunteers exhibiting no severe side effects after 48 weeks of treatment. However, Dr. Jonathan Stoye from the Francis Crick Institute highlights the formidable challenge of eliminating HIV from all potential reservoirs in the body, citing concerns regarding off-target effects and long-term risks associated with Crispr treatment.

HIV infiltrates and assaults immune cells, exploiting their machinery to replicate. Despite effective treatment, some infected cells enter a dormant state, harbouring HIV DNA without actively producing he virus. Most HIV patients require lifelong antiretroviral therapy to prevent viral resurgence upon treatment cessation. While rare cases of apparent HIV “cure” have been reported following aggressive cancer therapy, such drastic measures are not feasible for widespread HIV treatment.

While Crispr holds promise for HIV eradication, substantial hurdles must be surmounted before its clinical implementation. Long-term safety, efficacy, and the feasibility of eliminating latent virus reservoirs remain paramount. As research progresses, collaborative efforts among scientists, clinicians, and regulatory bodies are essential to realising the potential of Crispr-based therapies in combating HIV and other infectious diseases.