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Sunday, September 16th 2007

Getting Rid Of HIV

How close are we to being able to excise the HIV virus genome from infected people’s chromosomes? Maybe such is on the horizon (via Reddit).

Indrani and a team of scientists have developed an enzyme called Tre. Tre is a custom enzyme capable of detecting, recognising and destroying HIV, much like a pair of molecular scissors.

“In laymans terms, it’s an engineered enzyme which recognises sequences in the HIV genome that is duplicated, integrated virus and by the process of recombination, it cuts out the virus from the genome,” says she.

The biggest challenge with treating HIV today is that the virus becomes dormant and often develops resistance to HIV drugs.

The only way then to cure HIV is to get rid of the virus completely and Tre, the enzyme that Indrani constructed after a year and its 126 “cycles of mutation” totally deplete HIV in the human genome in three months in laboratory conditions.

One of her reports in Science (full publication requires subscription):

[Tre] recombinase efficiently excised integrated HIV proviral DNA from the genome of infected cells. Although a long way from use in the clinic, we speculate that this type of technology might be adapted in future antiretroviral therapies, among other possible uses.

Pretty cool.