HIV cure study sees ‘partial success’ with gene-editing tool CRISPR
Major strides in the field of HIV cure study have been reported this year alone by various groups of scientists from different parts of the world. The complete cure may not be available yet, but these promising results give the world hope that HIV is possible to cure.
HIV cure: Does gene-editing hold the key in ending the HIV epidemic?
The latest development in HIV cure research was reported by scientists from China using the gene-editing tool CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats). Even though the initial experiment did not kill the HIV in the patient, the researchers still reported it as a “partial success,” and they are looking forward to improving their methods in the next phase of the experiment.
The study, led by Peking University professor Hongkui Deng was published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine. The experiment was carried out on an HIV-positive patient who also suffers from acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Deng and his co-researchers used CRISPR and attempted to recreate the qualities of the CCR5 gene that makes people naturally resistant to HIV. Then, they transferred the cells to the patient through a stem cell transplant.
The scientists reported that the patient’s acute lymphoblastic leukemia went into “complete remission” and that there were no adverse side effects caused by the gene editing in the following 19 months. However, they saw very little success in treating HIV on the patient because only about 5% of their white blood cells carried the CRISPR-edited CCR5 cells. Their goal now is to conduct further investigation on how to bring that number up to 100%.
Is HIV curable?
NPR reports that the main inspirations of this study are the cases of Timothy Ray Brown and the London patient. Brown was the first-ever HIV patient considered to be cured after getting a stem cell transplant with CCR5 donor. This process was replicated and had the same successful result for the London patient that was reported earlier this year.
The fact is there remains to be no cure for HIV at this point. However, the cases of Brown and the London patient are major victories in medical science that give the world proof that HIV can be cured.