Temple researchers have achieved a scientific first: designing a technique to destroy the HIV-1 virus from human cells in a laboratory, a promising step toward curing HIV and AIDS.
Led by Dr. Kamel Khalili, professor and chair of the department of neuroscience, and Dr. Wenhui Hu, associate professor of neuroscience at Temple, a team of researchers eradicated the virus from cells by using a combination of a DNA-snipping enzyme and a guide RNA. This combination of molecules hunts down the virus then destroys the HIV-1 DNA. The cell then repairs all of the damage, resulting in a virus-free cell.
“The technology is very powerful and very fast,” Khalili told The Temple News.
Khalili said this method may also be applied to other diseases and abnormalities in the future.
“I think it has great potential,” Khalili said. “This technology is very interesting.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over 33 million people are infected with HIV, a lifelong disease that attacks the immune system, later progressing into AIDS.
An HIV cure has continued to elude researchers leaving very little treatment options aside from highly active antiretroviral therapy, which poses health consequences despite controlling the virus.
The team’s findings were officially published today by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“This study started about less than two years ago and we basically got to the point of being able to publish it in almost 9 months after that,” Khalili said.
At this stage, the team is focusing its efforts toward using the technique for treatment and curing the disease, but there have been laboratory observations that can be utilized in the prevention of the disease.
“That’s something that needs to be investigated on the way to being safely applied to normal individuals with the intention of protecting these individuals from viral infections,” Khalili said.
The method has a long way to go, Khalili said, before it can be used in a bedside setting. The molecular tools need to be properly packaged and delivered out of the laboratory and applied to small animal models before moving on to clinical testing.
Khalili is hopeful that this discovery will lead to the permanent cure of HIV/AIDS, as well as the treatment of the 30 million people infected.
“We are very excited about this observation,” Khalili said. “It is a step towards the right direction.”
Logan Beck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.