Teams at the Institut Pasteur in Paris announced on Thursday they had succeeded in their work to destroy cells infected with HIV.
Their work, published in the scientific journal Cell Metabolism, offers hope of a cure for AIDS patients.
Up to now, there has been no cure for AIDS, but instead, the disease has been treated by antiretrovirals.
These drugs block the infection and have saved many lives since they were discovered in the 90s, but they do not eliminate HIV cells from the body.
Patients are forced to take antiretrovirals for life because the drugs do not destroy the reserves of the infection stored in immune Cd4 T cells.
Researchers noticed the virus didn’t infect all the Cd4 T cells but didn’t understand why.
Scientists were able to block the activity of the lymphocytes, making them resistant to infection and eventually eliminating HIV.In the lab, lymphocytes have been able to block HIV infection.
Institut Pasteur said in a statement: “This work represents an important step toward the consideration of a possible remission through the elimination of reservoir cells.”
“This is an interesting first step but we are not at the stage where it can be applicable to humans in the near future,” said Jean-Michel Molina, professor of infectious diseases at Saint-Louis hospital in Paris.
“We need to continue research and this publication is an additional hope,” he went on.But he said the work was “extremely important because it provides very interesting information about the reservoir cells of the virus that, in people on tri-therapy, persist despite the treatment, and that force people to take the treatment throughout their lives.”
HIV and AIDS are estimated to have caused around 35 million deaths worldwide since they were identified in the early 1980s.
This latest breakthrough comes a month after researchers found a new HIV drug eliminates up to 99% of the virus within four weeks of treatment.
The groundbreaking Gammora drug kills HIV-infected cells in human subjects without harming healthy cells.
In the study, they managed to identify the characteristics of Cd4 T lymphocytes which are most likely to be infected by the virus, allowing it to spread.
Experiments showed the higher the metabolic activity of the cell, the higher its glucose consumption, and the more likely it is to be infected with HIV.
HIV cure a step closer after scientists remove virus’s DNA from living tissue
Research could ‘potentially serve as a curative approach for patients with HIV’, scientist says
Source: Ian Johnston Science Correspondent
Scientists have managed to remove DNA of the HIV virus from living tissue for the first time in a breakthrough that could lead to an outright cure.
At the moment, treating the disease involves the use of drugs that suppress levels of the virus so the body’s immune system can cope.
Now researchers in the US have revealed they used gene-editing technology to remove DNA of the commonest HIV-1 strain from several organs of infected mice and rats.
In April, the same team reported that they had successfully eliminated the virus from human cells in the laboratory, but a paper in the journal Nature Gene Editingrevealed they had managed to do the same thing in live animals for the first time.
The researchers’ team leader, Professor Kamel Khalili, of Temple University, said: “In a proof-of-concept study, we show[ed] that our gene-editing technology can be effectively delivered to many organs of two small animal models and excise large fragments of viral DNA from the host cell genome.”
The current antiretroviral drugs for HIV are not able to eliminate HIV-1 from the infected cells.
And if treatment is interrupted, the virus can start replicating quickly, putting patients of risk of getting full-blow AIDS.
This is because it is able to persist in immune system T-cells and other places where it is not actually active and is unaffected by the current treatments.
The researchers used a specially adapted virus to deliver the gene-editing system into the cells.
“The ability of the rAAV delivery system to enter many organs containing the HIV-1 genome and edit the viral DNA is an important indication that this strategy can also overcome viral reactivation from latently infected cells and potentially serve as a curative approach for patients with HIV,” Professor Khalili said.
In a statement, Temple University said the implications of the new study were “far-reaching”.
“The gene-editing platform by itself may be able to eradicate HIV-1 DNA from patients, but it is also highly flexible and potentially could be used in combination with existing antiretroviral drugs to further suppress viral RNA. It also could be adapted to target mutated strains of HIV-1,” it added.
Professor Khalili said a clinical trial could happen within the next few years, but he first planned to carry out a similar study involving a larger group of animals.