Scientists have cured living animals of HIV for the first time.
Researchers have completely eliminated the virus from the tissue of a group of mice.
The tissue had been transplanted with human cells that were infected with HIV.
The virus usually attacks and kills cells with the disease, leaving it open to other infections.
But now medics at Lewis Katz School of Medicine, part of Temple University, have found a way to ‘cut away’ the virus from cells in the body for the very first time.
“The next stage would be to repeat the study in primates,” said co-senior study investigator Kamel Khalili.
“A more suitable animal model where HIV infection induces disease, in order to further demonstrate the elimination of HIV-1 DNA in latently infected T cells and other sanctuary sites for HIV-1, including brain cells,” reports the Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News.
“Our eventual goal is a clinical trial in human patients,” he said.
The researchers claim this is a world first, saying: “To our knowledge, this study is the first to demonstrate the effective excision of HIV-1 proviral DNA from the host genome in pre-clinical animal models [using this method].”
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Dr Wenhui Hu, of Temple University, said the new study built on earlier research but was “more comprehensive”.
“We confirmed the data from our previous work and have improved the efficiency of our gene-editing strategy,” Dr Hu said.
“We also show that the strategy is effective in two additional mouse models, one representing acute infection in mouse cells and the other representing chronic, or latent, infection in human cells.”
More than 100,000 people are living with HIV in Britain.
There have been ongoing legal battles around the funding of PrEP, a drug that can reduce the risk of being infected with HIV by up to 86% if taken daily.
It has been endorsed by the World Health Organisation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for at-risk men who have sex with men (MSM).