Developments in the fight against HIV are arriving one after another, with the latest being published in the journal, Nature. The study, conducted by a team that included an HIV expert and a gene-editing expert, has succeeded in eliminating HIV entirely from the entire genome of a third of their lab mice.

The paper, titled “Sequential LASER ART and CRISPR Treatments Eliminate HIV-1 in a Subset of Infected Humanized Mice,” revealed a two-pronged approach to battling HIV in the body. LASER ART, or long-acting slow-effective release antiviral therapy, is used to suppress and isolate the virus. CRISPR Cas9 gene editing is then used to eliminate the virus completely.

Dr. Howard E. Gendelman, Director of the Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and Dr Kamel Khalili, of Temple University in Philadelphia, are two of the scientists who were part of the team that conducted the study. The pair talked to about the study, saying that the results of the study were unexpected, even to them.

“We thought it was a fluke, a problem with the graphs; that the cells carrying HIV had died; that our assay system was wrong,” said Gendelman. “It was only after we repeated it a couple of different times (that we accepted it).”

With the success of this procedure on their lab mice, the team is now moving to test the technique on macaque monkeys. Human clinical trials might start in 2020 if everything goes well.

This news comes on the heels of the announcement that private insurers may soon be required to cover PrEP. Aside from that, a generic form of Truvada — the only drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration to be sold as PrEP — is set to be released in 2020 as well, around the same time human clinical trials for this technique might possibly be held.

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