HIV can be edited out of genome

Unlike currently available drugs, a new technology provides tool to target dormant HIV in the body

By Aditya Misra
Published: Wednesday 23 July 2014

Image courtesy: Stanford School of Medicine, Porteus Lab

A new technology to alter genes has provided a new direction to research on HIV. The technology can help in identifying and cutting out HIV from the DNA of cells it infects. This can be used to weed out the last of the virus from the body, says a report published in Time.

HIV has a tendency to lie latent for long durations. Current medicines and vaccines only target the cells that are still in the process of dividing and releasing HIV, and those which are dormant are not identified. This is where the technology, called CRISPR, or clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, can be revolutionary because it is the first treatment course which targets even dormant cells.

“It was a little bit... mind-boggling how this system really can identify a single copy of the virus in a chromosome, which is highly packed DNA, and exactly cleave that region,” The Scientist quotes Kamel Khalili from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who led the study.

The technology can also be used to make healthy cells resistant to HIV, reports Time. The study was published online in PNAS on July 21.

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