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HIV may be eliminated by cutting off its cells 


In a stride towards a potential HIV cure, researchers from the Netherlands presented findings utilizing CRISPR-Cas gene editing technology.

Your Genome defined CRISPR-Cas9 to be “a unique technology that enables geneticists and medical researchers to edit parts of the genome by removing, adding or altering sections of the DNA sequence.”

Led by Dr. Elena Herrera Carrillo and her team at the Amsterdam University Medical Center, the study showcases a promising approach aimed at eliminating HIV from infected cells.

This specific technology is being used due to HIV’s ability to embed into the host’s DNA. While current medications effectively suppress the virus, they are not able to eliminate the virus. In their study, the researchers utilized CRISPR-Cas alongside two guide RNAs, or gRNAs, to successfully target and eliminate HIV-infected cells. They faced challenges in delivering the medicine due to the size of the delivery vehicle.

After this obstacle the team experimented with techniques to downsize the vehicle, helping the delivery of therapeutic agents to HIV-infected cells. The research team also sought to overcome the hurdle of targeting “hidden” HIV reservoir cells that rebound when treatment is halted. By focusing on specific proteins present on the surfaces of these reservoir cells, namely CD4+ and CD32a+, the researchers successfully reached and inactivated the elusive reservoirs. HIV is responsible for killing the immune system cells. These cells help fight infections and diseases in the immune system. HIV finds the white blood cells, called CD4 cells. HIV then embeds itself into the CD4 cells and mixes into it. Afterward, HIV kills the CD4 cell and makes HIV copies.

In their quest for a cure strategy, the team evaluated various CRISPR-Cas systems from different bacteria, identifying SaCas9 as particularly effective in completely inactivating HIV with a single gRNA. These findings represent a significant step forward in designing a comprehensive therapeutic approach against HIV.

This type of therapy and testing has not been knowingly done before with HIV. CRISPR-Cas gene editing technology is a recent method of gene editing, approved by the FDA in 2012. Herrera Carrillo and her team’s work offers a beacon of hope in the fight against HIV, showcasing the potential of CRISPR-Cas technology to revolutionize HIV treatment. As they continue to refine their approach, their research makes a future possible where HIV may no longer cast its shadow over millions of lives, paving the way for an inclusive “HIV cure for all.”

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Melani Bonilla
Melani Bonilla, Multimedia Editor
Melani Bonilla is the Multimedia Editor for The Ticker.
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