A One-Two Punch to Knock Out HIV

This schematic of HIV life cycle summarizes years of research to understand HIV and get to a potential cure for HIV infection
HIV-1 lifecycle illustration. Copyright Promega Corporation.

Scientists investigating the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) have learned much about the retrovirus’s lifecycle, but their ultimate goals were to discover a cure and prevent infection. In the decades since HIV was discovered, basic research and pharmaceutical drug development have expanded the antiviral toolbox, but these HIV treatments do not provide a functional cure, only manage the infection. However, two techniques may offer a potential cure for HIV infection using CRISPR and a possible vaccine using mRNA.

CRISPR-Based Therapy May Cure HIV Infection

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Preventing Viral Infection by Blocking Cellular Receptors with a Tethered Antibody

Finding a way to neutralize or block infection by HIV has long been pursued by viral researchers. Various treatments have been developed, driven by the need to find effective drugs to manage HIV in infected individuals. The ultimate goal is to develop a vaccine to prevent HIV from even taking hold in the body. With all of our knowledge about the cellular receptors HIV needs to enter the cell, there has to be a method to prevent a viral particle from binding and being internalized. Many researchers are pursuing neutralizing antibodies to the virus as one method. What about antibodies that target the cellular receptor recognized by the virus? An article published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, antibodies to cellular receptors for rhinovirus and HIV were tethered to the plasma membrane and tested for the ability to prevent infection.

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Using Laser Treatment to Eliminate Blood-Borne Pathogens

One unit of fresh frozen plasma By DiverDave (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Keeping our blood supply safe is increasingly difficult in the face of newly discovered pathogens that can be transmitted via blood. The tests developed to ensure the blood is free of pathogens like HIV and HBV are based on known pathogens and available screening tests. What about an emerging virus? How can we ensure our blood is safe in the face of the virus we know nothing about? The PLOS ONE article by Tsen et al. explored how a nonchemical treatment using ultrashort pulsed lasers might be used to eliminate viruses from blood plasma.

The authors used ultrashort pulsed (USP) lasers in their research as this treatment is known to inactivate a spectrum of bacteria and viruses including nonenveloped viruses, a class of virus that resists inactivation. Furthermore, the laser treatment is nonionizing and does not modify proteins covalently, meaning that proteins present in blood are likely to remain active even after exposure to USP lasers. The viruses that were tested for inactivation by USP laser in human plasma were an enveloped RNA virus human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), nonenveloped RNA virus hepatitis A virus (HAV) and enveloped DNA virus murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV). Continue reading “Using Laser Treatment to Eliminate Blood-Borne Pathogens”