Scientists Cured HIV in Mice and Say a Human Cure Could Be Next

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About 37 million people living with HIV could be impacted by a new study published in Nature Communications earlier this week.

Scientists Cured HIV in Mice and Say a Human Cure Could Be Next

© Karin Schermbrucker/UNICEF


About 37 million people living with HIV could be impacted by a new study published in Nature Communications earlier this week.


Scientists found that HIV can be entirely eradicated in some infected mice by using a gene-editing technology, named CRISPR, and a slow-release virus suppression drug. The positive results were achieved by two groups of specialists including immunologists, molecular biologists, virologists, pharmacologists, and pharmaceutical experts — led by Howard Gendelman from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Kamel Khalili from Lewis Katz School of Medicine of Temple University.


HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a disease which targets human T cells, that are responsible for fighting off infections, parasites, bacteria, and other antigens. The virus is spread through contact with particular bodily fluids of an infected person, and without treatment, HIV can develop into AIDS, that severely weakens and destroys the human immune system to the point of not being able to fight off infections. That later stage of the virus is what has claimed millions of lives since the epidemic was declared.


Today, though, with effective treatment, people with HIV can lead healthy lives. They can even lower the levels of the virus in their body to undetectable levels at which point they’re also unable to transmit the virus to other people.


Today, though, with effective treatment, people with HIV can lead healthy lives. They can even lower the levels of the virus in their body to undetectable levels at which point they’re also unable to transmit the virus to other people.


The study was performed on mice which were scientifically manipulated to produce human T cells that were vulnerable to HIV infection. Before the joint study began, Gendelman had been conducting trials for LASER ART, while Khalili has been experimenting with CRISPR for five years. The study combined their independent research.


According to Global Citizen, the team first used Gendelman’s LASER ART in order to prevent the replication of the virus’s cells, manipulating the drug to focus on parts in the body where HIV cells were likely to develop like in bone marrow, spleen, and brain tissue. Then they used the gene-editing tool to wipe the HIV chromosome from the mice DNA. After many years of examining tissue where infected cells could’ve been hiding in the mice, the scientists managed to confirm that the process was successful in eliminating the HIV in nine of the 23 mice that were used in the study.


Nevertheless, Khalili, Gendelman, and their team are clear that while this is just a step in the right direction, it is not evidence of a complete cure for humans.


The team is currently looking to replicate this study in other species to take their research forward.


If the study yields positive findings, then the first phase of clinical human trials could be approved by the Food and Drug Administration as early as the summer of 2020. Nevertheless, other experts like Kevin Morris, a professor at the Centre for Gene Therapy at the City of Hope, have major concerns about the side effects of that type of treatment in humans, despite being elated by the discovery.


There are several other methods of curing HIV that are still being tested, like a vaccine which was found to be safe and saw evidence of an immune response in humans and rhesus monkeys. Researchers say they’ve also managed to cure two HIV-positive people by transplanting stem cells donated by individuals with a highly uncommon genetic mutation which makes them resistant to the virus.


Though the impact might not be immediate, it’s clear that there is progress being made on several fronts in developing a cure for HIV. If and when it’s achieved, it’ll be life-changing for the global human population that has continuously battled the virus since it claimed epidemic status in the ’80s.

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Thinking Humanity: Scientists Cured HIV in Mice and Say a Human Cure Could Be Next
Scientists Cured HIV in Mice and Say a Human Cure Could Be Next
About 37 million people living with HIV could be impacted by a new study published in Nature Communications earlier this week.
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