Researchers at the Heinrich Pette Institute (HPI) www.hpi-hamburg.de and the Leibniz Institute for Experimental Virology and the Medical Faculty of the Dresden Technical University (TUD) have successfully developed a designer recombinase (Brec1) that is able to remove the provirus from infected cells of most primary HIV-1 isolates. The results have now been published in the Nature Biotechnology journal.
No noticeable side effects
The head of the HPI group, Prof. Joachim Hauber, said: “Only the complete removal of the HIV provirus from the genome of patient cells will ultimately lead to a durable cure of the infection. With the development of the Brec1 recombinase we are now able to target almost all of the clinically relevant HIV-1 isolates and remove the provirus without recognizable side effects.”
Clinical trials to be conducted in Hamburg
The research teams used directed molecular evolution to generate a designer recombinase (Brec1), which can remove the provirus from the majority (>90%) of clinical HIV-1 isolates found in humans. The team showed that the approach works on cells directly isolated from HIV-1 patients. Crucially, the antiviral effects were accomplished without measurable cytotoxic or genotoxic side effects. Based on these findings, Brec1 represents a promising candidate for possible applications in improved HIV therapies. The first clinical trials are to be carried out in Hamburg in the foreseeable future.
2 million new infections annually
At present, some 37 million people are HIV positive and over 2 million new infections occur annually. Thus, HIV/AIDS is still a a major world health challenge. Even though enormous advances have been made in HIV treatment, a complete cure is still not possible. Medicaton can stop the propagation of the virus, but the provirus remains in the body’s cells.