A team of scientists have snipped away HIV DNA from the genome of live mice using a CRISPR system, and the rodents lived to (kinda) tell the tale. It’s still much too early to call the method a possible cure, but the fact that it worked on a living animal opens up a lot of possibilities. Will it work on other diseases, like cancer? Maybe, but that’s something scientists have to look into. These researchers headed by neurovirologist Kamel Khalili have been focusing on the use of the gene-editing technique to eliminate HIV for years. They successfully excised HIV DNA in live mice last year, but this round is a lot more thorough.
Despite the best efforts to date, a vaccine for HIV remains beyond our reach. It seems every time researchers get close, the virus mutates to stay a step ahead, creating a biological arms race. But a team of scientists at the University of Texas believe they may have found a way to hobble HIV and drastically reduce its virulence. They want to infect susceptible cells with a “good” virus first, one that will effectively immunize them against HIV.
The gene editing technique CRISPR promises to treat all kinds ofgenetically-linked conditions, but it’s so far limited to tweaking DNA, not the RNA that does everything from carrying protein sequence info to regulating gene expression. That may change soon, however. Scientists have discovered that a commonplace mouth bacterium (Leptotrichia shahii) can be programmed to break down whatever RNA you want. You could rip apart viruses, which are frequently based solely around RNA, or kill a cancer cell by denying it the chance to make vital proteins.