Scientists have designed a way to snip out the integrated HIV-1 genes for the very first time. Researchers from Temple University School of Medicine have revealed how they created molecular tools to delete the HIV-1 proviral DNA. When deployed, a combination of a DNA-snipping enzyme called a nuclease and a targeting strand of RNA called a guide RNA (gRNA) hunt down the viral genome and excise the HIV-1 DNA. From there, the cell's gene repair machinery takes over, soldering the loose ends of the genome back together – resulting in virus-free cells.
Kamel Khalili said that this is one important step on the path toward a permanent cure for AIDS and it's an exciting discovery, but it's not yet ready to go into the clinic. It's a proof of concept that we're moving in the right direction.
The researchers said that since HIV-1 is never cleared by the immune system, removal of the virus is required in order to cure the disease.
The research shows that these molecular tools also hold promise as a therapeutic vaccine; cells armed with the nuclease-RNA combination proved impervious to HIV infection.
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.