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UNMC, Temple researchers take step toward first-ever cure for HIV


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: July 10th, 2019

Researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) and Temple University are working to create the first-ever cure for HIV.

In tests on humanized mice, the researchers used a slow-release, long-lasting formulation of HIV drugs developed at UNMC to suppress the virus, combined with a modified version of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology developed at Temple that cuts the virus’ DNA from the genomes of the mice.

According to a report published in the journal Nature Communications, about a third of the mice showed no sign of HIV infection for up to five weeks after treatment.

“This is proof of concept that a cure of HIV is possible,” says Howard Gendelman, researcher at UNMC and a senior investigator on the study. “Now you have to optimize the situation to bring it up to 100% of animals. We’re working on it.”

Though it is promising, the study only followed the mice for a relatively short time. In several other cases in which a potential treatment seemed to have eliminated the virus, it eventually came back. There is also the issue of safety if the treatment were ever to be tested on humans. Potential therapies don’t often make the leap to human testing, though the researchers say that humanizing the mice partially closes that gap. So far, they have found no traces of side-effects in the mice after analyzing the genetic sequences of their human cells.

“This is probably one of the most promising studies that have come out,” says Zandrea Ambrose, an HIV researcher at the University of Pittsburgh who was not involved in the study. “But there’s some work that still needs to be done. We’d want to make sure the system is as safe as possible before we deliver it to humans.”

Dr. Robert Gallo, who co-discovered HIV as the cause of AIDS in 1984, offered congratulations. “In my view, this is the most interesting and important therapy-related research advance I have seen in many, many years,” Gallo said in a statement.

The UNMC researchers are now moving ahead with research in primates, and the Temple team plans to begin testing for toxicity in a small number of humans, using conventional HIV drugs, in 2020. In the meantime, UNMC’s tech transfer office, UNeMed, is working to commercialize the long-lasting drugs, said Michael Dixon, its president and CEO.

The benefits of the drugs, known by the acronym LASER ART, are significant on their own, he said. Gendelman has previously shown that they can be taken less often than the current daily regimen.

Source: Live Well Nebraska

Posted under: Tech Transfer e-News

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