The numbers are daunting:
- Worldwide, 33.4 million people are living with HIV/AIDS (For perspective, Canada's population is about 35 million).
- 25 million people around the world have died of AIDS since 1981.
- In the U.S., more than 1 million people are living with HIV/AIDS.
- Of that 1 million, 1 in 6 are unaware that they have the virus.
The challenge to finding a cure for the virus has been that HIV-1 "...doesn't just float around in the bloodstream[,]" it affixes its genome into victims' DNA. Over several decades, treatments have evolved that make HIV less of an automatic death sentence and more of a chronic condition for people who have access to treatment, but a cure has been elusive.
Enter Kamel Khalili, PhD, chair of the Department of Neuroscience at Temple University in Philadelphia and his colleagues.
On July 21, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study led by Dr. Kamel Khalili in which the researchers were able to excise the HIV-1 virus from infected DNA.
"...Dr. Khalili and colleagues detail how they created molecular tools to delete the HIV-1 proviral DNA. When deployed, a combination of a DNA-snipping enzyme called a nuclease and a targeting strand of RNA called a guide RNA (gRNA) hunt down the viral genome and excise the HIV-1 DNA. From there, the cell's gene repair machinery takes over, soldering the loose ends of the genome back together – resulting in virus-free cells."
The approach is a "proof of concept" according to Dr. Khalili, with clinical applications still years away.
Subscribers to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences can download the complete study here. An abstract is available here. Dr. Khalili describes the concept in the video below.
Keyboard Image by Ervins Strauhmanis under a Creative Commons License via Flickr.