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Snipping HIV Out

Researchers from Temple University have received the go-ahead to test their gene-editing approach for treating HIV, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

It adds that researchers led by Kamel Khalili, a microbiologist and virologist there, first used CRISPR to remove HIV that has integrated into host DNA in a lab in 2014, and subsequently tested the approach in other human cells in the lab as well as in mouse models and, in 2019, in macaque monkeys. Khalili and his co-founded Excision BioTherapeutics about five years ago and it has since raised $60 million to funds its clinical trials, the Inquirer adds.

However, the Inquirer notes that the approach make not be able to fully remove all HIV copies, raising the question of level is good enough. "That's the question in the [research] field: Do we need to completely eliminate every viral copy to achieve the cure?" Tricia Burdo, a cell and molecular biologist at Temple, tells it. "We don't know yet."

Khalili suspects, it adds, that removing or deactivating most copies would likely lead to a functional cure, and he adds that the treatment, if found to be safe and effective, could be offered as a one-time treatment.