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Medicine Science Technology

CRISPR Eliminates HIV In Live Animals ( 139

Researchers from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University and the University of Pittsburgh show that HIV-1 infections can be eliminated from the genomes of living animals. Findings from the study have been published in the journal Molecular Therapy. Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News reports: This is the first study to demonstrate that HIV-1 replication can be completely shut down and the virus eliminated from infected cells in animals with a powerful gene-editing technology known as CRISPR/Cas9. The new work builds on a previous proof-of-concept study that the team published in 2016, in which they used transgenic rat and mouse models with HIV-1 DNA incorporated into the genome of every tissue of the animals' bodies. They demonstrated that their strategy could delete the targeted fragments of HIV-1 from the genome in most tissues in the experimental animals. In this new study, the LKSOM team genetically inactivated HIV-1 in transgenic mice, reducing the RNA expression of viral genes by roughly 60% to 95% -- confirming their earlier findings. They then tested their system in mice acutely infected with EcoHIV, the mouse equivalent of human HIV-1. In the third animal model, a latent HIV-1 infection was recapitulated in humanized mice engrafted with human immune cells, including T cells, followed by HIV-1 infection. "These animals carry latent HIV in the genomes of human T cells, where the virus can escape detection," Dr. Hu explained. Amazingly, after a single treatment with CRISPR/Cas9, viral fragments were successfully excised from latently infected human cells embedded in mouse tissues and organs.
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CRISPR Eliminates HIV In Live Animals

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  • by LetterRip ( 30937 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2017 @03:17AM (#54346587)

    Because this is how you get a zombie apocalypse.

    • by Chrontius ( 654879 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2017 @03:41AM (#54346649)
      It's also how you get a cure for AIDS. Stop making zombie jokes, this could be the end of the epidemic.
      • by chrpai ( 806494 )
        From what I've read, the first gene therapy drug approved in Europe costs $1.4M USD. Unless this can somehow get down to $20, this doesn't sound like an end to an epidemic to me. It looks more like a second chance for the 1% to me.
        • It's an experimental therapy being used in the lab. You won't know how much it might actually cost until they analyze what is involved in mass production. You can troll all you want but this news, this incredible wonderful news, will survive it.
        • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

          CRISPR kits cost around $100-$1000. If you were to mass produce therapeutic CRISPR injections in batches of a million, they'd cost pennies per dose. The extra cost is recouping research, profit, costs associated with extra care for experimental patients, etc.

        • by Salgak1 ( 20136 ) <salgak@speakeasy. n e t> on Wednesday May 03, 2017 @10:39AM (#54348479) Homepage

          The point being, it was the first. Bleeding-edge tech ALWAYS costs. The example of big-screen TVs is instructive. I'm in my mid-50s, and recall when any TV above a 26 inch tube was purely a rich man's toy. Price came down. Then flatscreen monitors, both TV and computer came out. Expensive and small. Now they're big and cheap, to the point you can pull a box with one off the shelf at your local Wally-world.

          The same model applies to Medical Technologies. The only difference is, EVERYONE demands the bleeding edge (pardon the phrase) in medical technology. . .

          • Another difference is that people *need* medical technology. You can get by just fine without a big TV. Since your life would depend on the technology, the opportunities for price inflation are much stronger.

            • by e r ( 2847683 )
              Yes, and people need to eat. That's why you go out and poke some seeds into the ground and work for a living. You work for your living and I'll work for mine. If you can't eat then that's your own problem. If I can't eat then that's my problem. If you can't afford a car then that's on you. Healthcare is the same.

              You have no right to make someone else pay for your stuff no matter how badly you want or even need it.
              FULL STOP.
              • Glad your parents didn't apply this philosophy to you while you were growing up? Or, maybe they did, and that's why you grew up to be an @$$hole.
                • by e r ( 2847683 )
                  1. I didn't call anyone names, but you did. That makes you the asshole.
                  2. A parent-child relationship is completely different from the relationship that two unrelated citizens have. It's dishonest to pretend otherwise.
                  3. My parents willingly gave me resources as I was growing up as long as I obeyed their rules. It's a kind of contract. I could have ended our relationship and left to live on my own, but that would be stupid of me to do so. It was far better to just obey, learn, and remain in my relationshi
                  • 1. I accept the title. 2. Of course parent-child is different from fellow citizen. My problem is with your unqualified "get what you pay for" mentality when it comes to healthcare. Food is a relatively predictable expense; healthcare is not. Expecting people who suffer a sudden or catastrophic illness to come up with the money to pay for their treatment all by themselves is ridiculous and cruel. Insurance. Your unqualified, Randian "go pay for your own" in this particular thread was not only unhelpf
        • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2017 @11:22AM (#54348767)

          In a few years, no-one's going to give a crap about whether these treatments are approved by some government, when they can download a file from the Internet that specifies the genetic changes and send it to their Home DNA Modification Kit.

        • If I'm thinking of the same thing you are, the reason it is so expensive is that there are so few patients - like a few dozen. (It's not even clear to me why they pursued that in the first place, given that it seems like it would be impossible to even recoup their initial investment, much less make a profit.) There is a much larger pool of HIV patients (supposedly 1.2 million in the US alone), even if you just focus on rich nations, and they could still charge what sounds like an extortionate amount of mo []

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The affordable market price: now only $200k-500k per shot!

        • by Anonymous Coward
          I think there are many people for whom it would be easier to come up with that kind of money than it would be to live with AIDS.
          • And if they have good health insurance, it would probably be a bargain compared to what is already being spent on existing HIV medications.

      • Well that would be one epidemic down, a few others to go, or need I mention herpes.
    • I'd rather be a spider than a snail!

      • What do obscure, misquoted song lyrics have to do with anything?

        • Nothing was misquoted, which you'd understand if you could comprehend the meaning of a quote.

          Your claim is not even self-consistent; do you think I quoted something, or do you think I said something slightly different? And did it have quotes? So it was different, and without quotes or reference? It isn't even possible to be a misquote.

          There are lots of other potential meanings you could consider that are self consistent, though.

          You remind me of some CRISPR-head who ignores the dangers merely because they di

          • WTF? What you wrote was literally one word off from the first line of El Condor Pasa [] by Simon and Garfunkel (and at least one person [] managed to misquote it the same way previously).

            More to the point, what's your goddamn problem? You're clearly some kind of idiotically furious nutjob if you're going to get that bent out of shape at the (apparently) heinous accusation that you might have been making a pop-culture reference! And if not a reference, then what the hell else was it supposed to be?! It had nothing

            • You: "No, calm down, there is no zombie apocalypse. See, look at the test results: It says the same thing that I expected it to, just off by one word. Therefore, it can only be typo. CRISPR would never intentionally change just one word. If it was a design bug, everything about the result would be different."

    • If you were personally touched by the virus in some way - yourself, someone you love, etc - you'd be looking at this post with cautious optimism, and not joviality.
    • When zombies figure out how to break the first law of thermodynamics, then I'll be worried about a zombie apocalypse.
  • Yeah, but how do we eliminate the "Biotech News Blues"?
  • "HIV-1 replication can be completely shut down and the virus eliminated from infected cells in animals with a powerful gene-editing technology known as CRISPR/Cas9." I'm very glad to hearing this!
  • by Chrontius ( 654879 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2017 @03:45AM (#54346659)
    This could actually move people off antiretroviarals, and into long-term remission.

    Don't expect a silver bullet - AIDS will be cured like cancer, driven into remission, and only "cured" after we're confident that it won't show up again later on.

    In spite of that? I expect it's going to be far cheaper than treating patients with long duration HAART cocktails, and treating the side effects of those drugs. Even if each patient's viral strains have to be sequenced, and a CRISPR cocktail picked based on the strains harbored, AIDS drugs are not cheap. This could be a turning point representing the beginning of the end of AIDS.
    • by MayeulC ( 4660055 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2017 @04:14AM (#54346777)

      Even if each patient's viral strains have to be sequenced, and a CRISPR cocktail picked based on the strains harbored, AIDS drugs are not cheap. This could be a turning point representing the beginning of the end of AIDS.

      I agree. And this could also have the additional benefit of driving costs down for sequencing, and CRISPR-based therapies, which could in turn bring such a cure to more people, and enable the same to be done for other diseases.

    • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

      So your flabbergasted that a prokaryotic immune system that protects bacteria from viral infections can be used to protect eukaryotic cells from viral infections too?

      Hijacking CRISPR/Cas9 for editing DNA is the "flabbergasting" bit, not using it for what it evolved for. Now wake me up when you can use this to cure HxNy please.

      • No, OP is flabbergasted that it works well enough in an actual animal to eliminate integrated HIV copies. Plenty of things work well in isolated cells or tissues that fail to translate to animal models. Efficient delivery is usually a lot harder in animals than in cells.
    • Flabbergasted by the implications

      The implications of CRISPR-Cas9 overall are flabbergasting.

      It suddenly allows much, much more complex, precise and reliable gene editing than the previous transfection systems. It is ludicrously, phenomenally, powerful and the surface is just being scratched.

      There are vast implications, both positie and negative. Like any tool, it has the power to do great harm as well as amazing good. The cat's out of the bag and anyway it's just too powerful to ignore, so it's going to be

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        When you're removing things, it works about as well as you suggest. When you want to add something (changing requires removal AND adding) then it's a lot better than anything before, but it still involves a lot of random chance. You can't really use something that random therapeutically.

    • It'll almost certainly be cheaper long-term than HAART cocktails, but an effective HIV vaccine would do a lot more to end AIDS. Ideally, we'll get both a cure and a vaccine in the near future.

      IIRC, this CRISPR/Cas system shouldn't require individualized patient sequencing. HIV does have highly conserved regions of its genome, and disrupting those is enough to render the proviral genome completely non-functional.
    • by bongey ( 974911 )

      HIV/AIDS is nothing like cancer. HIV/AIDS has but a few variations of the virus, cancer has hundreds of variations. Even when you "cure" one form of cancer in an individual, the cancer often mutates into another form that previous treatment is no longer effective. This treatment might be effective if you can detect the various mutations and un-do the mutations that are causing there cancer. PBS had very good 6 part serious on current cancer research.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is great news if they can take it out of the lab! I also hope this can be applied to other viruses!

  • Subtypes of HIV (Score:4, Informative)

    by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2017 @05:15AM (#54346957)

    HIV-1 is the most common and pathogenic strain of the virus.
    HIV-2 has not been widely recognized outside of Africa.

    HIV-2 has been found to be less pathogenic than HIV-1. The mechanism of HIV-2 is not clearly defined, nor the difference from HIV-1, however the transmission rate is much lower in HIV-2 than HIV-1.

    source []

  • Bill HIcks (Score:4, Funny)

    by waspleg ( 316038 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2017 @05:19AM (#54346965) Journal

    "I dunno how much AIDS scares y'all, but I got a theory: the day they come out with a cure for AIDS, a guaranteed one-shot cure, on that day there's gonna be fucking in the streets, man."

    • Re:Bill HIcks (Score:5, Insightful)

      by esperto ( 3521901 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2017 @07:32AM (#54347465)
      His comment is tong in cheek, but one thing AIDS epidemic is "good" for, at least outside Africa, is to help keep in check other STDs. The AIDS scare helped a lot to make people use condoms and halted the spread of some common STDs that people took as not that bad (clamidia, herpes, etc.).

      Not having this boogie man can actually make those other diseases spike.

      • by gcmd ( 894557 )
        And we are already seeing that spike as the spread of HIV has been greatly diminished with the use of HAART. Already Syphilis and Gonnorhea are spiking in incidence, and more worrisome, they are resistant to the drugs that we have used to treat them. Multidrug resistance is now a real problem with the older STDs!
      • tong in cheek

        That sounds painful. :-)

        • sorry, english is not first language and the autocorrect didn't caught it, but the cheek is not specified so, maybe it is still correct lol
          • It's cool, thanks for being a good sport about it :-)

          • Plenty of people who do have English as their first language can't spell "tongue". It's one of those common English words with a spelling that, for historical reasons, is bizarre even by the lax standards of English.

            Anyway, in this case there's something to be said for "tong in cheek".

      • That's already happening in the gay community with PrEP. []

        That article makes the point though that STI rates in San Francisco are still way below "abstinence only" regions in the south. So it would seem that the AIDS scare isn't having an effect anyway in the areas it would matter most.
  • This is awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Baron_Yam ( 643147 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2017 @07:30AM (#54347455)

    Gene editing, through every part of the organism reachable by the immune system, in a live mammal. HIV will ultimately be a mere footnote, because this technology is an early first step to editing your own genome as a consenting adult instead of fiddling around with the genes of a fertilized egg and hoping you haven't screwed over a future person's life in the process.

    You won't be rebuilding large structures in the body with this, but there's still so much that can be done if you can alter genes in an adult. There are a lot of deleterious genetic conditions that can be corrected, and then you move on to upgrading.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Gene editing, through every part of the organism reachable by the immune system, in a live mammal. HIV will ultimately be a mere footnote, because this technology is an early first step to editing your own genome as a consenting adult instead of fiddling around with the genes of a fertilized egg and hoping you haven't screwed over a future person's life in the process.

      If that is possible, then so is the forcible editing of genomes upon non-consenting adults, children, and infants. Welcome to the future.

  • by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <> on Wednesday May 03, 2017 @07:38AM (#54347493)

    Remember when you guys were claiming AIDS was a sent by God to punish homosexuals?

    Well, it looks like maybe God wasn't as pissed off with them as you thought. Oopsie!

  • is sure to be staggering....

    Just when you though the drug companies cared more about lives than profit... ROFL ;-)

    • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

      In a few years, the cost will be $10 plus a flight to Mexico.

      Or $10,000,000 if you want the treatment America.

  • by AnotherBlackHat ( 265897 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2017 @10:08AM (#54348249) Homepage

    Ob. link to the song CRISPR-Cas9 []

  • by coldandcalculating ( 1311907 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2017 @11:21AM (#54348759)
    While it's important the continue testing the limits of CRISPR technology in preclinical studies like this, the truth is that viral vector based delivery isn't quite up to the challenge (yet!) of a total genomic clearance of HIV in all infected cells. From the news and views comment [] on the article:

    several issues remain to be addressed prior to clinical trials. While an AAV serotype with broad tropism is ideal for proof-of-concept studies, replication competent HIV is rare (present only in one of every 10,000 to 1,000,000 CD4+ T cells), and thus identifying delivery vectors with high specificity to the HIV reservoir remains a significant hurdle. There is currently no known viral or non-viral agent that is capable of efficiently and selectively delivering and expressing transgenes in these cells. An ideal delivery candidate should possess the ability to carry a relatively large cargo to relevant reservoir cells and facilitate pharmacologically significant enzymatic activity. It should also exhibit little to no toxicity irrespective of the duration of its presence in vivo, whether transient or long term.

    (emphasis mine)

    Still, this is a very encouraging development toward a possible HIV cure.

    • So there are a couple options here. One is to actually modify an HIV genome to include the CRISPR/Cas system they used here, and use that as the delivery vector. You can also combine that with a shock and kill treatment - possibly using chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells. It's not going to be cheap or easy, but this is an additional tool.
      • Yes! These de-clawed HIV vectors are known more broadly as therapeutic lentivirus. The problem is still efficiency - you have to not only hit every infected cell, but CRISPR editing has to go off without a hitch in those cells. Then there's the issue of turning off the transgene you've just delivered before "off target" cuts can induce chromosomal aberrations that can lead to cancer.

        This isn't the first time researchers have used gene editing to tackle HIV infection. There is a clinical trial [] involving a
        • Yep, I'm aware (also in the field) - that's why I suggested doing it in combination with a shock and kill approach where you pharmacologically reactivate the latent HIV reservoir, introduce CAR T cells to kill infected cells, and use lenti delivering the CRIPSR system - either to knock out HIV genomes or CCR5 (or both - luckily gRNAs are pretty small!). Off-target effects can be somewhat mitigated with the newer versions of Cas9 - Keith Joung is doing some particularly interesting work there.

          Yeah, there's

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