HIV hasn’t been the torturous death sentence it was before for years, and that’s due to the drug mixture that forms antiretroviral therapy. Yet, this miracle drug has its side effects; it’s really expensive, increases drug resistance, and doesn’t get rid of the drug completely, meaning HIV progresses again once the patient cuts the meds.
However, a new cure may have been found; an actual cure this time! A German team of researchers have discovered an enzyme that can “cut” off the HIV DNA from the cell’s genetic code. This was tested out on mice and has shown quite positive results, and the researchers believe that this could work just as good on humans.
This genetic-scissors enzyme, called Brec1, was created by the researchers using an engineering technique that mimics the natural evolution of proteins. This enzyme is programmed to cut both sides of the HIV DNA out of it’s sequence. This is usually difficult as the viral DNA mutates itself to the human DNA; however, they have discovered a well-conserved sequence and tested the enzyme’s reliability in snipping reliably.
The tests performed on the mice were quite positive; after 21 weeks of using it, the cells that were snipped appeared to be completely cured and showed no signs of HIV. This wouldn’t be the first attempt at removing HIV completely from the genetic sequence, albeit the most successful one. Previously, scientists have tested other gene cutting enzymes like TALENS and asCRIPR, though none were so exact and were refused for clinical practice because their cuts weren’t reliable.
And despite researchers still having questions, and despite all the debate surrounding gene-snipping enzymes, Brec1 is planned to be tested on humans later on this year.