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Biotech Medicine

Researchers Claim Success In Removing HIV From Living Cells (nature.com) 107

ffkom writes: A recent publication from German researchers claims success in removing the HI-Virus from living cells, showing a way to completely cure AIDS rather than just suppressing its symptoms (by lowering the amount of viruses) by permanent medication: "Current combination antiretroviral therapies (cART) efficiently suppress HIV-1 reproduction in humans, but the virus persists as integrated proviral reservoirs in small numbers of cells. To generate an antiviral agent capable of eradicating the provirus from infected cells, we employed 145 cycles of substrate-linked directed evolution to evolve a recombinase (Brec1) that site-specifically recognizes a 34-bp sequence present in the long terminal repeats (LTRs) of the majority of the clinically relevant HIV-1 strains and subtypes. Brec1 efficiently, precisely and safely removes the integrated provirus from infected cells and is efficacious on clinical HIV-1 isolates in vitro and in vivo, including in mice humanized with patient-derived cells. Our data suggest that Brec1 has potential for clinical application as a curative HIV-1 therapy." Clinical trials are expected to start in Hamburg, Germany, soon.
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Researchers Claim Success In Removing HIV From Living Cells

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  • HIV articles (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 25, 2016 @12:12AM (#51580009)

    Are like battery/solar power articles. The best battery/HIV cure is just 2 years away. Always. But it never happens.

    • by Z80a ( 971949 )

      Well, could be worse, like solar roadway articles.

    • Re:HIV articles (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ArylAkamov ( 4036877 ) on Thursday February 25, 2016 @01:45AM (#51580405)

      Pretty much. I remember hearing about a possible cure for aids years ago, researchers claimed it worked in mice and it was months away from human testing.

      Never saw another word about it. It would be nice if they would at least say why it didn't work in humans instead of MASSIVE HYPE and then nothing.

      • Re:HIV articles (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DamonHD ( 794830 ) <d@hd.org> on Thursday February 25, 2016 @03:44AM (#51580759) Homepage

        Not all research works out. Research is hard. If it wasn't then it would be a risk. If you only want finished products then camp out in a Apple store and stop reading Slashdot. This type of entitled whining is very very dull and adults should avoid it.

        I'm running a research project right now. Guess what, bits of it aren't working as expected, but some of those failures are actually interesting and may save someone else a bunch of trouble.

        Damon

        • by Anonymous Coward

          He's not complaining that the research didn't work out, rather that there's never any followup as to why not. Like you said, some of the failures are actually interesting, and it'd be great to hear about them.

          • by dave420 ( 699308 )

            If he read the actual literature on the topic he'd be fine. Getting one's scientific information from the mainstream media is not very wise.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ElRabbit ( 2624627 )
      Like they say in the article, it's pure marketing that the thing could be used on humans. The real goal is to cure mice from any known disease, have them live forever and make them take over the world tonight.
      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        Don't say that too often, you'll end up messing up the experiment and the mice will be both mad and get their revenge.

      • We probably do need a better human analog for this kind of research. I can't help but wonder how many potential cures have been missed because the initial tests on mice failed where they would have had at least some degree of success on a human, with only a little modification to perfect it.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Apparently there's a breed of sheep in Scotland that has like 75% human DNA. Nobody's sure how they managed it; those Scottish scientists are brilliant!

          • Credit where it's due.

            That was an international effort. Scotland, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Rolla Missouri all deserve some credit.

    • Well, at least it is better than controlled thermonuclear fusion. That is always 25 years away.

    • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

      We didn't find a cure to HIV, however, people can now live with it. It is not the death sentence it used to be.
      Like with batteries and solar power, things have improved a lot. It is just that it happened gradually so people didn't notice.

    • Are like battery/solar power articles. The best battery/HIV cure is just 2 years away. Always. But it never happens.

      Could be worse it could be like fusion

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        I dunno? Is it really any better if it's 2 years away instead of 30? I'm reminded of that song by Annie... "It's always a day away."

    • And, yet, solar prices have dropped dramatically and the number of installations is growing dramatically. Batteries have been getting better / cheaper.

      And treatment for HIV is getting better, people are living longer, we keep learning more and more. Most experimental things never make it to the real world. However, the real world is better more and more solar / battery / HIV treatments, so your whining is stupid and pointless, and wrong.

  • by IntentionalStance ( 1197099 ) on Thursday February 25, 2016 @12:17AM (#51580043)
    Don't most of them start with a discovery like this. Just saying.
    • by bosef1 ( 208943 )

      There was also that ST:TNG episode where the crew devolved.

  • This is genetic engineering tech, applied to humans. Are you now going to require that all the HIV patients using this treatment wear labels? You know, the scarlet letter of the left.

  • by nateman1352 ( 971364 ) on Thursday February 25, 2016 @12:39AM (#51580143)
    If this actually works it could be one of the most important advances in human medicine for decades. Hopefully it actually works and isn't the typical vaporware HIV cure.
    • by DamonHD ( 794830 )

      Agreed.

      Generally I had thought from way back when I did some genetics that killing the host cell was the only way to root out such integrated virii, but I'm not sure what's going on here: I must read TFA properly.

      Rgds

      Damon

    • by eth1 ( 94901 )

      If this actually works it could be one of the most important advances in human medicine for decades. Hopefully it actually works and isn't the typical vaporware HIV cure.

      Yeah... given that, AFAIK, humanity's record with curing viruses is Humans: 0, Viruses: everything, going to Humans: 1, Viruses: (everything-1) would be a pretty big deal, regardless of the virus involved.

  • by bosef1 ( 208943 ) on Thursday February 25, 2016 @12:41AM (#51580155)

    I haven't even RTFA yet, but I was wondering if this could have applications with other viruses that become long-term residents of the body. I'm thinking of things in the herpes family like... herpes, or chickenpox / shingles. The trick with most of these is long-term, mostly-dormant viruses hiding in the cells. If you can wake them up, the immune system can clear them, but they are effectively hidden inside the cells while quiescent.

    • And cancers too perhaps, "site-specifically recognizes a ... sequence".
    • by kinko ( 82040 ) on Thursday February 25, 2016 @03:22AM (#51580699)

      I haven't even RTFA yet, but I was wondering if this could have applications with other viruses that become long-term residents of the body. I'm thinking of things in the herpes family like... herpes, or chickenpox / shingles. The trick with most of these is long-term, mostly-dormant viruses hiding in the cells. If you can wake them up, the immune system can clear them, but they are effectively hidden inside the cells while quiescent.

      HIV is a "retrovirus", which means the the virus's DNA integrates into the host's DNA. Some other viruses do this, but I think most don't. Some are more interesting, eg EBV is a virus from the herpes family which infects several different tissue types, and we know it can integrate into human DNA inside white blood cells, but I don't think there's proof that it can integrate inside liver or stomach cells.

      As a retrovirus, the HIV sequence successfully breaks into a cell, then breaks into the cell's nucleus, then into one of the nucleus' chromosomes. (This is obviously harder to detect than viruses that stay inside the cell's cytoplasm, or that enter the nucleus but stay apart as their own episome [mini-chromosome].) That's what the article is referring to when they say their method recognises a 34-base pair long sequence - it is recognising that piece of the viral sequence in our own chromosome, and then uses something to snip out enough of the viral sequence that it can no longer make new copies of itself.

      Obviously you want to be careful with any therapy that involves cutting up bits of human chromosomes... :)

    • by ffkom ( 3519199 ) on Thursday February 25, 2016 @04:38AM (#51580887)

      I am pretty sure we'll see more attempts on removing also other retro viruses from living human cells, if only because techniques like CRISPR/CAS9 have recently made "live editing" of genes so much more feasible.

      Along with curing hereditary diseases, this is the obvious "good use case" for editing the genome in living humans.

      I'm sure elsewhere in the world, researchers are also already working on the obvious "evil use cases", like breeding gene-doped athletes, unscrupulous soldiers, will-less slaves etc..

      • by Anonymous Coward

        will-less genetically enhanced sex slaves? i am in.

  • Only 88% of HIV are affected by this change. So not to be Debbie Downer, but as it is now, all this would do is change which strain is the most prevalent. 88% isn't good enough; Hell, 99.99% isn't good enough, as 'Life finds a way' (as far as viruses can be considered alive).

According to the latest official figures, 43% of all statistics are totally worthless.

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