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Researchers Turn To Gene Editing System CRISPR To Facilitate Research On Curing HIV

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A team of researchers at UC San Francisco, along with Gladstone Institute, has used a system of gene-editing procedures to find mutations that make immune cells resistant to HIV.

The team built a platform with an alternative CRISPR/Cas9 technology, which permitted testing on how scores on different series of tests are correlated with the defended immune cells against HIV. The system allows modifying genetic codes in order to accelerate the research on an HIV cure.

"This is an ability HIV researchers have wanted for a long time. I hope this will take what seemed like an insurmountable task a year ago and make it something everyone can do," noted postdoctoral researcher Judd F. Hultquist, co-lead author.

A pivotal characteristic of modifying T cells is mutating opposite claimant genes in hundreds of thousands of T cells, which could advance the means of therapeutic results once advances are made. The genes CXCR4 and CCR5, encoding receptor molecules, were mutated. These genes encode molecules that strains of HIV pathogen use to infect immune cells. But once rendered inactive, these genes could block the HIV strain.

The study, which was published on Oct. 25 in Cell Reports, is one of the many efforts to understand the human reactions to HIV as well as the substances and chemical processes responsible for them.

HIV Research Progress

A great number of studies were conducted since the 1980s with regard to HIV. However, despite the coordinated scientific efforts, no cure has so far been found. The virus has killed millions of people, and it infects millions of others by the year.

The scientific explanation is that HIV infiltrates a patient's immune system, living inside the host's DNA for the rest of the patients' lives, which makes antiretroviral treatment so important in HIV-infested patients.

Scientists have found that not all people are susceptible to the virus, showing that some individuals are naturally resistant to the infection. The research focus is to make editing the patients' immune systems possible, in order to mimic the biological architecture of the immune systems in people who cannot be infested.

Of course, doing this is all the more complicated, as there could be a lot of possible factors (and even combinations of factors) responsible for this resistance to the virus, which would make the scientific research a constant trial-and-error battle until finding the cure.

The researchers' plan is to use the new platform in order to identify other possible weaknesses of the HIV virus' life cycle that could be exploited in further therapy sessions. The plan comes along with a series of mutations that would have to be performed in order to identify the causes as specifically as possible.

The toolkit that made this possible instrumentally speaking should one day become available worldwide in the study of every disease that doesn't have a cure at the moment, according to the scientists' ideals.

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