HIV Genes Successfully Edited Out of Immune Cells. This has never been done before, and is likely to be a landmark in both HIV and genetic editing research. A genetic editing technology called CRISPR/Cas9, which can change your genetic makeup by removing or introducing genes in your body, and has been around for a few years, ripped out all the HIV DNA from all the T-cells in a petri dish. This is targeting a disease at the most fundamental level.
Geneticist Kamel Khalili and colleagues from Temple University extracted infected T-cells from a patient. The team’s modified version of CRISPR/Cas9—which specifically targets HIV-1 DNA—did the rest. First, guide RNA methodically made its way across the entire T-cell genome searching for signs of the viral components. Once it recognized a match, a nuclease enzyme ripped out out the offending strands from the T-cell DNA. Then the cell’s built-in DNA repair machinery patched up the loose ends.
Not only did this remove the viral DNA, it did so permanently. What’s more, because this microscopic genetic system remained within the cell, it staved off further infections when particles of HIV-1 tried to sneak their way back in from unedited cells.