Human Immunodeficiency Virus, one of the most challenging viruses to hit humankind in the past half-decade, might have a cure in the next three years.
While virus has claimed the lives of over 25 million people since the 1980s, researchers at Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University say they’ve found a way to cut the virus right out of the DNA of cells—and they are confident that they can start trials on people in the next three years, the Telegraph first reported.
So far, researchers have only managed to eliminate the virus in the lab—though the trials have shown that they can keep HIV away for good. Most drugs that currently treat the virus, antiretroviral therapy, show a rapid rebound in HIV replication, according Kamel Khalili, a professor at the Lewis Katz School and senior researcher in the study in a statement. That weakens the immune system and can eventually lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS.
HIV weakens the human immune system by tricking the human body to create inaccurate DNA, increasing the risk of future infections. Temple University’s treatment essentially finds the faulty DNA, HIV-1 proviral DNA, in the T-cell genome, and snips it out. The loose ends of the DNA then stick back together by the body’s own mechanisms.
According to researchers, the treatment also seems to show cells growing and functioning normally after the process—suggesting that the therapy is unlikely to affect other genes.
“Further, they show that the system can protect cells from reinfection and that the technology is safe for the cells, with no toxic effects,” Khalili wrote in a statement.