WHOA: Temple Researchers Edit HIV Out of Human Cells in Lab Study



Crazy cool news out of Temple University today, y’all: As per a just-published study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from Temple’s neuroscience department have figured out a way to edit human cells and “snip out” HIV DNA, essentially eliminating the virus from cells for good.

The press release reads like a sci-fi novel. Listen:

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.

Crazy, right? Study co-author Kamel Khalili, professor and chair of the Department of Neuroscience at Temple, calls it "one important step on the path toward a permanent cure for AIDS." And while the treatment is not yet ready to go to the masses (more on that in a second), co-author Wenhui Hu, also in the neuroscience department, says it's "proof of concept that we're moving in the right direction."

The research, of course, still has a ways to go. For one thing, while the method has proven formidable at snipping out latent HIV virus from some human cells, it hasn't been quite as effective at delivering the one-two punch to all cells infected with the virus; they're working to come up with a therapeutic delivery system that would do exactly that. Another challenge: HIV-1 is prone to mutations, so they'd need to figure out a way to tailor the treatment to individual patients' needs.

Still. It's a big step, and the research team seems confident: "We want to eradicate every single copy of HIV-1 from the patient. That will cure AIDS," said Khalili in a press statement. "I think this technology is the way we can do it."

Like what you're reading? Stay in touch with Be Well Philly—here's how:

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • MommynatorRN

    I’ve always called HIV the sneaky little rat bastard virus. It acts like other viri in that it uses other cells’ DNA to reproduce, but adds to its repertoire the ability to turn off the cells’ distress reaction which activates the immune system to fight it. Then it waits for years in those cells until the trigger to invade.

  • d0x360

    Science is absolutely amazing

  • JimmyD

    Shouldn’t we give faith-based methods more time to prove themselves? They have worked so well for every other problem allegedly solved by “science.”

  • CHRaised

    This is fantastic news…… but “y’all”? Seriously?

  • nissinphilli

    I wish “Ryan White,” could see his hard work come to pass, this little boy gave us so much and we gave him sooooooooooooo little……………

  • Jambi

    When the day comes that something like this really comes to pass there’s going to be a big party. A real big party.