Scientists just used CRISPR gene-editing techniques to remove HIV from human T-cells

Scientists managed to eliminate HIV-1 DNA from T cell genomes in human lab cultures. It will take time for advanced use in humans, but it is a remarkable accomplishment.

Using the much-touted CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing method, scientists have demonstrated how they can edit HIV out of human immune cell DNA, and in doing so, can prevent the reinfection of unedited cells too.

If you haven’t heard of the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technique before…It allows scientists to narrow in on a specific gene, and cut-and-paste parts of the DNA to change its function.

Earlier this year, scientists started using CRISPR/Cas9 to successfully treat a genetic disease – Duchenne muscular dystrophy – in living mammals for the first time, and now it’s showing real potential as a possible treatment for HIV in the future.

The technique works by guiding ‘scissor-like’ proteins to targeted sections of DNA within a cell, and then prompting them to alter or ‘edit’ them in some way. CRISPR refers to a specific repeating sequence of DNA extracted from a prokaryote – a single-celled organism such as bacteria – which pairs up with an RNA-guided enzyme called Cas9.

So basically, if you want to edit the DNA of a virus within a human cell, you need a bacterium to go in, encounter the virus, and produce a strand of RNA that’s identical to the sequence of the virtual DNA.

This ‘guide RNA’ will then latch onto the Cas9 enzyme, and together they’ll search for the matching virus. Once they locate it, the Cas9 gets to cutting and destroying it.

Using this technique, researchers from Temple University managed to eliminate HIV-1 DNA from T cell genomes in human lab cultures, and when these cells were later exposed to the virus, they were protected from reinfection…

While gene-editing techniques have been trialled before when it comes to HIV, this is the first time that scientists have figure out how to prevent further infections, which is crucial to the success of a treatment that offers better protection than our current antiretroviral drugs.

Bravo! As usual, technology and science are themselves immune from Good and Bad. Those uses are defined by the humans who use advances to their own ends. That’s where ethics are required. Full credit to Kamel Khalili and fellow researchers at Temple University who brought their talents to bear on one of the scourges of the 20th Century and more.

18 thoughts on “Scientists just used CRISPR gene-editing techniques to remove HIV from human T-cells

    • 实事求是 says:

      (11/17/16) “China is at the forefront of manipulating DNA to create a new class of superhumans” http://qz.com/750908/the-future-of-genetic-enhancement-is-in-china-and-india/ “Western democracies are, by design, sensitive to popular opinion. Elected politicians will be less likely to fund controversial projects, and more likely to restrict them. By contrast, countries like China that lack direct democratic systems are thereby less sensitive to opinion, and officials can play an outsize role in shaping public opinion to align with government priorities. This would include residual opposition to human enhancement, even if it were present. International norms are arguably emerging against genetic enhancement, but in other arenas China has proven willing to reject international norms in order to promote its own interests.”

  1. Clickbait says:

    “Monsanto Agrees to Use Gene-Editing Tool CRISPR Responsibly” http://motherboard.vice.com/read/monsanto-uses-crispr-responsibly “Monsanto announced on Thursday that it has struck a deal which will allow the biotech giant to use the gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 on agricultural products. It is the first company to receive approval to deploy CRISPR/Cas9 for agricultural use.
    The license was approved by the Broad Institute, a genomic research center maintained by MIT and Harvard, and will be used by Monsanto to create genetically modified plants that are tailored to its needs. The “wide array of crop improvements” that Monsanto sees as enabled by CRISPR/Cas9 could mean anything from drought resistant crops to agricultural products that are designed to taste and look more appealing to the consumer.”

  2. Mike says:

    These Kids Are Learning CRISPR At Summer Camp https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/kzavja/these-kids-are-learning-crispr-at-summer-camp
    Meanwhile in New Mexico, Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed a bill that passed the Legislature with overwhelming support, and would have allowed high school students to count computer science classes toward math and science credits needed for graduation. http://www.lcsun-news.com/story/news/local/2017/03/14/should-computer-science-count-math-credit-gov-says-no/99186652/

  3. All ahead says:

    “In a First, Scientists Fix a Dangerous Mutation in Human Embryos” (Wall Street Pit Aug 5, 2017) http://wallstreetpit.com/113913-dangerous-mutation-human-embryos/
    “CRISPR technology was conducted on human embryos to “correct” a mutated gene for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. There were improvements over previous experiments as the results of the recent study does not have “off-target” corrections and “mosaicism”. Though legal and ethical barriers are still present before further gene editing experiments can be made on human DNA, the success of the study bodes well in correcting other hereditary diseases.”
    Includes video: “Genome Editing with CRISPR-Cas9”
    “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” (William Gibson)

  4. Theodoric of York says:

    “Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley and Massachusetts General Hospital have identified a key region within the Cas9 protein that governs how accurately CRISPR-Cas9 homes in on a target DNA sequence, and have tweaked it to produce a hyper-accurate gene editor with the lowest level of off-target cutting to date.” (UCB press release 9/20/17) https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-09/uoc–dhi092017.php
    Also, “Scientists have engineered an antibody that attacks 99% of HIV strains and can prevent infection in primates. It is built to attack three critical parts of the virus – making it harder for HIV to resist its effects.” (BBC 9/22/17) http://www.bbc.com/news/health-41351159 Reportedly these ‘tri-specific antibodies’ “are more potent and have greater breadth than any single naturally occurring antibody that’s been discovered”.

  5. Hope says:

    Scientists may soon be able to treat autism with CRISPR gene editing https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/crispr-gene-editing-autism/ “This study shows the first time demonstration of the rescue autistic symptoms using gene editing in autism mouse model,” Hye Young Lee, an assistant professor of cellular and integrative physiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, told Digital Trends. “On the top of that, we used nonviral way to deliver to do it, which supports the potential therapeutic treatment for brain disorders.”

  6. Oyez says:

    “Before CRISPR can transform our world, it’s gotta get out of court.
    There’s been a legal battle going on to determine which of the scientists whose research led to CRISPR’s discovery gets to own it (and collect money from licensing it).
    The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) just decided to grant not one, but two new CRISPR patents to UC Berkeley, home of biochemist Jennifer Doudna, who many consider the creator of CRISPR.” (June 14, 2018) https://futurism.com/crispr-patents-uc-berkeley/

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