HIV Genome Removed from Human DNA

The HIV genome has been isolated and removed from human DNA during a breakthrough scientific trial this month.

dna

The research team lead by Khamel Khalili at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has identified, isolated and removed entire parts of the viral genome from isolated human cells using two types of procedures. This team took the testing methods called CRISPR/Cas9, which was first published last year by Yoshio Koyanagi and his colleagues from the Tokyo University and further elaborated on them as a way to rid genes from the virus.

Other valiant efforts in the fight against AIDS have arisen lately, like the pre-exposure prevention pill Truvada, a condom with HIV killing lubricant and an intravaginal ring that protects against HIV. But, while all of these solutions are a great leap ahead for the health of the world, none actually eliminate the virus, or prevent future episodes from occurring. In fact, nothing has yet to accomplish that great feat– until now.

Two types of removal methods were employed, CRISPR and Cas9, before one was successful in the endeavor. The most successful means of removing the HIV genome from human DNA was through using a flushing method in which the virus was identified and then was able to be pinpointed for retroviral therapy and elimination of the virus, including the trigger which reactivates the virus when it is latent or dormant. This was the Cas9 method of removal.

Essentially, the virus makes copies of itself which attach to different areas of the DNA strand, so even if one copy is destroyed, the others remain. This new method of detection can find these copies and get rid of them, wiping the DNA completely clean of the virus. This has been dubbed gene-editing, and the scientists who’ve diligently been employing this technique have made more progress against preventing future HIV breakouts in positive people than any other scientific team thus far.

The other means of HIV removal from human DNA, known as CRISPR, could prove to be more problematic, because the room for error is increased through this less precise way of zeroing in and deleting on the virus. However, CRISPR was successful compared to previous attempts and is still being considered as a means of identification, when coupled with outside antiretroviral treatments.

Despite these recent momentous advancements, as of now the CDC still recommends male and female condoms and dental dams as the best way to avoid contracting HIV through sexual activity. With bulk condoms being so inexpensive, there really is no reason not to have them and use them, correctly and consistently. But, if you find yourself in a predicament, without one available, remember that there are other things you can do with your partner that are fun and satisfying, yet safer such as: phone sex, sexting, video, masturbating in front of one another, etc.

If you’ve been stealthed, have used a broken or expired condom, or fear that you may have been exposed to a positive person’s blood, vaginal fluids or semen for any other reason, ask your healthcare professional about getting a prescription for a Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) as soon as possible. These pills must be taken within 72 hours of a possible exposure in order to be effective and require a few days regimen of pills, so the sooner the better.

Source: [The Scientist, CDC]

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