Saturday, January 17, 2015

Health Milestone: HIV Successfully Eradicated by Scientists on Human Cell DNA

ACT UP protesters demonstrate against the US government's AIDS policy in 1991. (photo: The Guardian)

Health Milestone: HIV Successfully Eradicated by Scientists on Human Cell DNA

By Youth Health
16 January 15

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 1.2 million Americans who are living with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and there are 14% who are not aware they have the infection. In 2012, an estimated 47,989 people were diagnosed with HIV infection in the United States and each year 50,000 new infections occur. Worldwide, around 33 million people have HIV.

The virus can insert its deadly genome permanently into the host's cell DNA. Today, there is no known treatment for this condition and victims are required to undergo medical treatment for the rest of their lives. However, a historical milestone in medicine has emerged as scientists from Philadelphia found a way to entirely remove and delete the deadly virus from the human cells.

Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has been widely used to control the replication of the virus inside the body. Yet, it has been a great help in extending the lives of those infected with HIV.
But while it can control the proliferation of the virus, it does not completely wipe it out of the victim's system. However, the team of Temple University School of Medicine said that the discovery is a breakthrough in the world of medicine and health.

In the news article from Medical News Today, the scientists used methods in order to delete the HIV-1 DNA from cells. They found a way to snip the virus out of the DNA through a 'DNA snipping enzyme'. They based the two-part HIV-1 editor on a system that would be a bacterial defense mechanism to protect from infection.

The said enzyme called gRNA (Guide RNA) will now hunt down the viral genome and delete the HIV-1 DNA. They were able to engineer a strand of gRNA of 20 nucleotides. They tested the enzyme on cultured human cells. They discovered that the tool was effective in deleting the virus from the parts of the cells that are known to be infected with HIV like macrophages and T cell lymphocytes, the main target of the HIV virus.

"Since HIV-1 is never cleared by the immune system, the removal of the virus is required in order to cure the disease," explained Dr. Kamel Khalili, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Neuroscience at Temple.

However, the team is recommending that further research is needed. "This is one important step on the path toward a permanent cure for AIDS. 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," reiterated Dr. Khalili.

"We are working on a number of strategies so we can take the construct into preclinical studies. We want to eradicate every single copy of HIV-1 from the patient. That will cure AIDS. I think this technology is the way we can do it," he added. In the report, they are now working on methods to deliver the tool to every cell of the infected person's body that is infected with HIV.

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