A graphic image of HIV DNA in the body.

Find out how scientist were able to remove HIV DNA from the body.

HIV treatments have dramatically improved in recent years. Combinations of antiretroviral medications target the replicating of HIV within the body. When taken regularly, many HIV-positive individuals can lead relatively normal and healthy lives. As beneficial as these treatments are, researchers are still looking into finding an actual cure for the disease. One reason: if treatment happens to be interrupted, the virus quickly makes a comeback, and the infection can progress to AIDS. This is due to the latent HIV DNA within the cells.

Without the medications to suppress the virus, the infected cells are free to reproduce. Removing these viral pieces from the infected cells, and other areas where they lay dormant, is what would eradicate the infection.

HIV DNA: Gene Editing Takes the Next Step

In line with this objective, one recent study has successfully removed the HIV DNA from infected cells. The team had developed a sort of gene editor. The system works by targeting the infected cells and removing specific segments of HIV’s genetic material implanted by the virus.

When first tested, results were positive, and had little-to-no adverse effects. The most recent trial included targeting HIV material in organ tissue and blood cells. After just a couple of weeks, every type of tissue showed signs of the viral genetic material being removed. The broad spectrum of tissues gives hope that further developments will yield lasting and effective results, especially if gene editing is used in conjunction with current therapies.

Researchers are confident that if used alone, it has the potential to eliminate HIV from the body. Added benefits may come from using it along with antiretroviral therapies. Suppressing the virus’ ability to replicate, and removing its DNA from infected cells (even latent ones), will ensure a clean sweep. Seeing as the gene editing is also a very flexible technique, it is possible to tailor it to target mutated forms of the virus—an issue that continues to impede progress.

While the results from this study have years of trials and testing to go, it shows that medical objectives in regard to HIV and HIV DNA are feasible.