Scientists just successfully used gene editing to remove HIV from infected immune cells

hiv gene editing color
CDC/ C. Goldsmith, P. Feorino, E. L. Palmer, W. R. McManus
Researchers from Temple University have developed a breakthrough technique that may change the course of treatment for HIV/AIDS and other retrovirus infections. The method uses the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing tool, which allowed the team to splice the HIV viral DNA out of the patient’s infected immune cells. Sadly, tests thus far have proven unsuccessful in rendering humans altogether unsusceptible to the devastating illness.

Updated on 04-09-2016 by Lulu Chang: Chinese doctors try and fail to create HIV-proof human embryos

Recently, fertility doctors in China failed for the second time to genetically modify embryos that would make them completely immune to HIV. While Yong Fan, a researcher at Guangzhou Medical University says, “It is foreseeable that a genetically modified human could be generated,” this has not yet come to fruition.

CRISPR/Cas9 was developed as a gene editing tool in 2012 by a team of scientists at University of California Berkeley. It became the tool of choice for molecular biologists because of its simplicity, high efficiency, and versatility. CRISPR is a naturally occurring DNA sequence that is repeated throughout the bacterial genome. Scientists discovered that these repeats match the DNA of viruses and are used by the bacteria as a defense against a viral infection. They also found a set of enzymes called Cas (CRISPR-associated proteins) that are often associated with CRISPR sequences.

Working together, CRISPR and Cas can splice DNA with great precision, allowing scientists to target specific genes for elimination or modification. In the case of the HIV study, the team of researchers extracted infected T-Cells from a patient and used a modified CRISPR/Cas9 to remove the HIV-1 DNA. The treatment was shown to be effective against both T-Cells cultured in a petri dish and t-cells extracted from an HIV patient. When the procedure was complete, the treated cells contained no detectable HIV DNA and were unaffected by the treatment. Unfortunately, when CRISPR was used in attempts to entirely change embryonic DNA, researchers only managed to create a mosaic of cells, which would not have been immune to the virus.

While previous tests suggested that the system completely removed the viral DNA without harming the target cells, and did so permanently, reducing the chance of reinfection, the application in the early stages of human development have not yet been successful.

Still, the CRISPR/Cas9 technique may prove to be a much more efficient viral treatment than the current strategy of antiretroviral therapy, which remains effective only for so long as the patient is taking the medicines. Once the antiretroviral therapy stops, the patient relapses as the HIV resumes its attack on the person’s immune system.

While the new technique shows promise as a treatment for HIV and other retroviral diseases, researchers are cautiously optimistic about its clinical application. The technique still needs refinement to ensure it is safe and effective for patients.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

CERN plans to build a massive particle collider that dwarfs the LHC

CERN already has the world's biggest particle accelerator. Now it wants a bigger one. Meet the 9 billion euro Future Circular Collider that will allow physicists to extend their study of the universe and matter at the smallest level.
Emerging Tech

Forget fireworks. Japan will soon have artificial meteor showers on tap

Tokyo-based startup Astro Live Experiences is preparing to launch its first artificial meteor shower over Japan, serving as a showcase of its prowess in the space entertainment sector.

Robomart’s self-driving grocery store is like Amazon Go on wheels

Robomart's driverless vehicle is like an Amazon Go store on wheels, with sensors tracking what you grab from the shelves. If you don't want to shop online or visit the grocery store yourself, Robomart will bring the store to you.
Emerging Tech

Glowing space billboards could show ads in the night sky

Look up at the night sky in 2020 and you might see an ad for McDonald's floating among the stars. A Russian startup is working on a project that uses a constellation of small satellites in low-Earth orbit to create glowing ads.
Emerging Tech

New brainwave reader tells teachers if students are concentrating

Massachusetts-based startup BrainCo has developed brainwave-reading headbands which can reportedly help reveal if students are concentrating in class. Here's how they're being used.
Emerging Tech

Fears about kids’ screen use may have been overblown, Oxford researchers find

Many people take it as gospel that digital technologies are harmful to young people’s mental health. But is this true? A recent study from the University of Oxford takes a closer look.
Emerging Tech

Meet Wiliot, a battery-less Bluetooth chip that pulls power from thin air

A tiny chip from a semiconductor company called Wiliot could harvest energy out of thin air, the company claims. No battery needed. The paper-thin device pulls power from ambient radio frequencies like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cell signals.
Emerging Tech

Hexbot is a modular robot arm that does everything from drawing to playing chess

Who wouldn’t want their own personal robot arm to do everything from laser engraving to competing against you in a game of chess? That's what Hexbot, a new modular robot, promises to deliver.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world will take your breath away

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Too buzzed to drive? Don’t worry — this autonomous car-bar will drive to you

It might just be the best or worst idea that we've ever heard: A self-driving robot bartender you can summon with an app, which promises to mix you the perfect drink wherever you happen to be.
Emerging Tech

Scientists successfully grow human blood vessels in a Petri dish

Researchers have managed to grow human blood vessels in a Petri dish for the first time, and even to successfully implant them into live mice. The results could be a game-changer for diabetes.
Emerging Tech

Tiny animals discovered in Antarctic lake deep beneath the ice

Scientists have made a surprising discovery in Antarctica: the carcasses of tiny animals including crustaceans and a tardigrade were found in a lake that sits deep beneath over half a mile of Antarctic ice.
Emerging Tech

How long is a day on Saturn? Scientists finally have an answer

The length of Saturn's day has always been a challenge to calculate because of the planet's non-solid surface and magnetic field. But now scientists have tracked vibrations in the rings to pin down a final answer.