Researchers report that they inactivated HIV-1 expression and replication by using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology. They specifically excised a 9,709-bp fragment of the virus by targeting the 5’- and 3’-long terminal repeats in the microbe in latently infected microglial, promonocytic, and T cells. The technique also served to immunize uninfected cells from being infected with HIV-1.
“These properties may provide a viable path toward a permanent cure for AIDS, and provide a means to vaccinate against other pathogenic viruses,” wrote the investigators in a study (“RNA-directed gene editing specifically eradicates latent and prevents new HIV-1 infection”) published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The research team was composed of scientists from the Temple University School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, and West China Medical School-Sichuan University.
“Given the ease and rapidity of Cas9/guide RNA development, personalized therapies for individual patients with HIV-1 variants can be developed instantly.…Our results suggest that Cas9/RNA can be engineered to provide a specific, efficacious prophylactic and therapeutic approach against AIDS,” concluded the scientists in their PNAS article.