"(The study) marks a critical step toward the development of a possible cure for human HIV infection", according to a UNMC press release. A clinical trial could start within a year.
Current HIV treatment involves daily, lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART) which suppresses the virus' ability to replicate, but doesn't eliminate the virus from the body. This suppresses HIV replication but does not eliminate the virus from the body.
And that hope continues, because of breakthrough research right out of Omaha, Nebraska, HIV could possibly be cured all around the world. Since the virus was first discovered in the 1980s, more than 75 million people worldwide have been infected with HIV.
His team used a technique called CRISPR-Cas9 that can snip faulty DNA with a harmless virus. This also reduces the frequency of treatments.
The long-lasting medications were made possible by pharmacological changes in the chemical structure of antiretroviral drugs. The modified drug was packaged into nanocrystals, which readily distribute to tissues where HIV is likely to be lying dormant. It's stored within these cells for weeks at a time, with antiretroviral drugs slowly released. Rather, it suppresses HIV replication long enough for CRISPR-Cas9 to "specifically and efficiently" excise fragments of HIV-1 DNA from the host genome. However, research on animals may not produce the same results in humans.
The London patient had been in sustained remission for 18 months at the time the article was published, researchers said. In one-third of the sample, researchers only involved LASER ART alone, while another third used CRISPR-Cas9.
UNMC announced Tuesday that researchers there, in cooperation a team at Lewis Katz School of Medicine (LKSOM) at Temple University, have "come up with a way to completely eliminate HIV infection in a special mouse model".
"The big message of this work is that it takes both CRISPR-Cas9 and virus suppression through a method such as LASER ART, administered together, to produce a cure for HIV infection", Khalili said in a university news release.
Excision BioTherapeutics Inc.is a life science company focused on the development and commercialization of advanced gene editing therapeutics for the treatment and eradication of life-threatening disease caused by neurotropic viruses (viral infections).
"We have to make sure that they're safe, that they're effective and that they don't have the side effects because when we move into patients we want to make sure that that first patient tested is experiencing something that will be safe for them", president and CEO of UNeMed Corp., Michael Dixon said. Dr. Khalili and Howard Gendelman, MD, Margaret R. Larson Professor of Infectious Diseases and Internal Medicine, Chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Neuroscience and Director of the Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases at UNMC, were senior investigators on the new study.
Similar to ART, however, gene editing can not completely eliminate HIV on its own.
Researchers say they might need to partner with an industrial or pharmaceutical company to get affordable drugs off the shelves and to the people who need them.