An advancement described as “incredible” by some media, indicates that a group of scientists from a prestigious university in Philadelphia was able to eliminate the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in laboratory mice.
The achievement comes from the tenacity of scientists at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine, Temple University, who showed evidence of the effectiveness of a treatment that suppress HIV in the “humanized mice” group
The multidisciplinary group that is on the path to finding a cure for the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) was supported by the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
The news, which is extremely encouraging, takes on a superlative rigor, due to its publication by the scientific journal Nature, which brings hope to the medical community and to people suffering from this disease.
The high-performance scientific team consists of biologists, virologists, pharmacologists, immunologists and health engineers, who designed the “Laser Art”, a treatment that uses a slow-release device with prolonged action which maintains HIV replication at low levels for long periods of time.
According to the publication, the team modified the drug for slow release for several weeks targeting tissue of the spleen, bone marrow and brain, where latent HIV reservoirs or inactive HIV cells were likely to occur.
The scientific journal states that in order to eliminate the remaining infected cells from the genetic material, they devised a gene editing tool which allowed to “clean segments of the genome” and remove the HIV chromosome.
The scientist´s group explained that the results showed the researchers had successfully eliminated the virus from the 23 animals covered by the tests.
In a statement issued by Kamel Khalili, director of the Comprehensive Neuro-AIDS Center and Co-Director of the Center for Translational Neuro-AIDS Research at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine, he said that “our study shows that treatment to suppress HIV replication and gene editing therapy, when given sequentially, can eliminate HIV from cells and organs of infected animals.”
In addition, he said that this discovery represents a promising step for the nearly 37 million people living with the virus and that “we now have a clear path to move ahead to trials in testi non-human primates and, possibly clinical trials in human patients within the year.”
The modified drug was packaged into nanocrystals which facilitate its distribution to tissues, where HIV is likely to be lying dormant and stored within cells for weeks, slowly releasing the drug.
To test their theory, the researchers used mice engineered to produce human T cells, susceptible to the action of HIV. Then they treated the mice with Laser ART and CRISPR-Cas9. At the end of the treatment, they examined the viral load and determined complete elimination of HIV DNA in about one-third of HIV-infected mice.
These experts determined that both CRISPR-Cas9 and LASER ART or a similar method need to be used together to “produce a cure for HIV infection,” said Khalili, who explained that there is already “a clear path to move ahead to trials in non-human primates” and possibly clinical trials in human patients “within a year”.
Currently there is an antiretroviral treatment that qualified as chronic, a disease that decades ago was considered fatal. This treatment must be administered lifelong.
Translated by: José Espinoza