A team from Temple University has developed a possible treatment for HIV, for now only tested on animals. The researchers combined antiretrovirals and Crispr-Cas9, in order to heal the cells already attacked by the virus.
The combination appears to be more effective than genetic editing alone and offers hopes for a future human trial. To date, the only therapy available against HIV is antiretroviral, which however does not eliminate the virus.
The treatment is limited to blocking the expansion of the infection and must be taken for life. Unfortunately, the virus integrates its DNA into the cells of the immune system, hiding from antiretroviral drugs. If treatment is interrupted, the infection resumes and can turn into AIDS. Crispr-Cas9 removes the DNA of the virus from the cells of the immune system, preventing it from reproducing.
The technique proved to be quite effective in mice already alone, even though it failed to eliminate all the infected cells. Hence the need to enhance it with the latest generation antiretroviral therapy, the "long-acting slow effective release antiretroviral therapy" (called Laser Art). Laser Art therapy slows down the dissolution of the drug in the body, so as to reduce the frequency of administration.
The drug is in fact contained in nanocrystals, which facilitate the distribution of the drug even in the most hidden points. This allows many more infected cells to be blocked, then eliminated with Crispr-Cas9. With this approach, the researchers managed to heal about a third of the guinea pigs.