Speed Reads


Is gene-editing the future of HIV treatment?

While HIV treatment has made immense strides since its discovery in the 80s, there still isn't a cure. But in a remarkable new find, scientists may have figured out a way to completely eliminate it.

A new study, published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, details the efforts of researchers to use the gene-editing tool CRISPR to eliminate HIV from the bodies of infected mice. While it only worked about a third of the time in the experiment, the success represents "a big step forward," said Chen Liang, a professor of medicine at McGill University who wasn't involved in the study.

The CRISPR treatment was combined with antiretroviral drugs, which suppressed the spread of HIV within the infected mice's cells, while the gene editing was used to target fragments of the virus' DNA, Stat News reported. This is much more successful as a long-term strategy than the antiretrovirals on their own, which are the most effective treatment currently available for HIV patients. Using those drugs on their own, missed doses can allow the disease to spread — sometimes to detrimental results. By using CRISPR in combination with those drugs, it may actually be possible to remove the virus completely, reducing the danger of living with HIV.

Of course, the CRISPR treatment is far from ready for human use — this preliminary study, "like any good paper, raises more questions than it answers," said Kevin Morris, a professor at City of Hope, a cancer hospital in Duarte, California. But it's possible that with further testing, this CRISPR method may become a viable way to reduce the ongoing cost of HIV treatment. Read more at Stat News.