Researchers at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia say they have been able to completely eliminate HIV from human cell cultures.
Kamel Khalili, PhD., professor and chair of Temple’s Department of Neuroscience, call the advancement “one important step on the path toward a permanent cure for AIDS.” But Khalili added that while it is “an exciting discovery,” the procedure is “not yet ready to go into the clinic.” He added, “It’s a proof of concept that we’re moving in the right direction.”
Khalili, Dr. Wenhui Hu, an associate professor of neuroscience at Temple, led the project, which marks the first successful attempt to eliminate latent HIV-1 from human cells, according to a statement released by the university. Khalili is also director of the Center for Neurovirology and director of the Comprehensive NeuroAIDS Center at Temple.
Khalili and his colleagues published their study Monday, July 21, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, detailing 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,” the statement read. “From there, the cell’s gene repair machinery takes over, soldering the loose ends of the genome back together — resulting in virus-free cells.”