HIV HAS NO cure. But it’s not quite the implacable scourge it was throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Education, prophylactics, and drugs like PrEP have cut down its transmission. Anti-retroviral treatments keep HIV-positive people’s immune systems from collapsing.
But still, no cure. Part of the problem is HIV’s ability to squirrel itself away inside a cell’s DNA—including the DNA of the immune cells that are supposed to be killing it.
The same ability, though, could be HIV’s undoing. All because of Crispr. You know, Crispr: The gene-editing technique that got everyone really excited, then really skeptical, and now cautiously optimistic about curing a bunch of intractable diseases. Earlier this week, a group of biologists published research detailing how they hid an anti-HIV Crispr system inside another type of virus capable of sneaking past a host’s immune system. What’s more, the virus replicated, and snipped HIV from infected cells along the way. At this stage, it works in mice and rats, not people. But as a proof of concept, it means similar systems could be developed to fight a huge range of diseases—herpes, cystic fibrosis, and all sorts of cancers.
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