Health

Hunting Down HIV Holdouts

Discovering where HIV lingers in the body could lead to a cure.

By Katie Bo WilliamsNov 26, 2014 12:00 AM
Mehau Kulyk/Science Photo Library/Corbis

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 

HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence, thanks to now-standard treatments — particularly highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). But even with HAART, HIV can linger in brain and immune cells, reactivating years later to cause heart, kidney and neurological problems. Now, a new method that hunts down these HIV holdouts could lead to the first true cure for HIV/AIDS.

HIV, which infects about 35 million people worldwide, infiltrates cells, slips its genome into chromosomes and turns the cells into HIV factories. HAART keeps HIV from replicating, preserving the patient’s immune function.

But to rid infected cells of HIV, Temple University researchers Kamel Khalili and Wenhui Hu customized a new gene-editing method called CRISPR to snip out the entire HIV genome without harming any human genes. The technique, announced in July, works in brain and immune cells where the virus hides, and it could one day protect people from future HIV infection and from other viral diseases, such as HPV and hepatitis B.

Researchers still need to test the treatment in animals, which could take several years. “We want to eradicate every single copy of [HIV] from the patient,” Khalili says. “That will cure AIDS. I think this technology is the way we can do it.”

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month
Already a subscriber? Log In or Register
1 free articleSubscribe
Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Log In or Register
More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.