CRISPR/Cas9, Gene Editing Tool – Removing HIV From Infected Cells

CRISPR/Cas9, Gene Editing Tool – Removing HIV From Infected Cells
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A recent breakthrough has been reached and it could literally change the world. Researchers from Temple University have been able to develop a technique that can change the course of treatment for HIV/AIDS and other retrovirus infections.


The discovery involves a gene editing tool that allowed researchers to clear out HIV viral DNA out of the patient’s infected immune cells. The tool is called CRISPR/Cas9.

The gene editing tool might have been relatively unknown for now, but it is bound to be more talked about after the recent achievement. It was developed originally in 2002 and has been under study for years before it managed to acquire such achievement. Let us give you a brief intro into something that might be useful for everyone in the future.

CRISPR/Cas9 was developed by a team of scientists at the University of Berkeley. According to Digital Trends, it was simple, high-efficient and versatile. Because of these traits, it has been favored by molecular biologists.

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CRISPR is a naturally occurring DNA sequence repeated throughout the bacterial genome. Based on studies, these repeats match the DNA of viruses and are then used by the bacteria as defense against a viral infection. The scientists also discovered a set of enzymes called Cas or CRISPR associated proteins often associated to CRISPR sequences that can cut and slice DNA.

With both CRISPR and Cas working together, it can splice DNA in a highly targeted manner, which enables researchers to target specific genes that can be removed or modified. For the HIV study, the team has extracted the T-Cells from a patient and used a modified CRISPR/Cas9 to remove the HIV-1 DNA.

The amazing discovery showed that it was effective against both T-Cells cultured in a Petri dish and T-cells extracted from a HIV patient. After the procedure was completed, the treated cells remained unaffected but has no detectable HIV DNA anymore.

This means it did not just remove the viral DNA without harming the cell but has also reduced the chance for reinfection. Lead researcher Kamel Khalili said that “the findings are important on multiple levels.”

He said that it “demonstrate the effectiveness of our gene editing system in eliminating HIV from the DNA of CD4 T-cells and, by introducing mutations into the viral genome, permanently inactivating its replication.”

He adds that the findings show that the system is able to protect cells from being infected again and also revealed that the technology is “safe for the cells with no toxic effects.” Science Alert also reports that while this is not the first time gene-editing techniques had been tried when it comes to HIV, this is the first time scientists have figured out how to prevent further infections.

This is crucial to the success of the treatment as it offers better protection than what the existing antiretroviral drugs have. Once a patient stop taking the drugs, HIV starts overloading the cells again. Khalili said that the available antiretroviral drugs are good at controlling HIV infection, but patients who stop taking it suffer from “rapid rebound in HIV replication.”

Although there is a lot to be done before this technique is ready for more advanced use, it can already be said that it does pose an exciting future for the field’s first step towards more complicated treatment processes – twice effective than what we currently have now.

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