Genetic Engineering

New Gene Editing Technology Eliminates HIV


CRISPR Editing
Broad Institute

CRISPR gene editing technology is barely two years old, and it is already shaking up biotechnology and medicine. Using CRISPR biotechnologists can precisely edit genomes down to a single set of base pairs. Researchers are currently exploring just how to use this powerful new technology to treat all sorts of illnesses including sickle cell disease and cystic fibrosis.

Researchers reported in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences how they used CRISPR to entirely extirpate HIV virus from various types of infected human cells. The PNAS editors rate the research's significance:

For more than three decades since the discovery of HIV-1, AIDS remains a major public health problem affecting greater than 35.3 million people worldwide. Current antiretroviral therapy has failed to eradicate HIV-1, partly due to the persistence of viral reservoirs. RNA-guided HIV-1 genome cleavage by the Cas9 technology has shown promising efficacy in disrupting the HIV-1 genome in latently infected cells, suppressing viral gene expression and replication, and immunizing uninfected cells against HIV-1 infection. These properties may provide a viable path toward a permanent cure for AIDS, and provide a means to vaccinate against other pathogenic viruses. Given the ease and rapidity of Cas9/guide RNA development, personalized therapies for individual patients with HIV-1 variants can be developed instantly.

Obviously, much more work needs to be done, especially on how to deliver CRISPR enabled therapies in the actual bodies of patients. Still, investigators have already applied CRISPR to cure mice of a genetic liver disease and other investigators used it to genetically modify monkeys. It seems likely that CRISPR will usher in a range of highly effective new therapies before the end of the decade.

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  1. Humanity is dead. LONG LIVE HUMANITY!

    1. Better living through chemistry.

      1. Brought to you by DuPont, makers of spandex and napalm. Both designed to stick to human skin.

        1. and both VERY SEXY! right…?

        2. Nah. Napalm was designed as defoliant for making field expedient landing strips. It just happened to stick to human skin.

          1. Serendipity!

            1. Just like the adhesive on post-it notes.

          2. Are you thinking of Agent Orange? Napalm was from WW II, to discourage enemy soldiers from occupying caves, tunnels, pillboxes, and other hiding places.

    1. This was my very first thought as well.

    2. If possible, I aim to be a well-edited and health-maximized GMO some day.

      1. You are clearly a shill for MONSANTO!!1!!!!

        1. Big Corn!

      2. Well, that’s fine, Ron, provided that you have warning labels tattooed all over you. We need transparency.

        1. Also, if we play darts with him he has to stand further back.

          1. O’Brien should’ve beamed him into space after that revelation.

            1. I think Miles might be the most underrated character in the entire franchise.

              I hope that after that he just secretly configured the station to perform random tiny gusts of wind/gravity as Bashir threw.

      3. yeah, but only the wealthy will be able to afford it! Wait, will this eliminate the need for monocles? Whatever shall we do?!

        1. Now you can edit in a NEED for monocles!

        2. Gentlemen.

          Monocles will continue to be worn, despite your genetically enhanced eyesight. It separates us from the commoners.

          That is all.

          1. Yes, they will be smart monocles hooked up to the surveillance systems in our orphan factories so that we can monitor orphan productivity throughout the day

    3. Luddites SMASH!!!

      1. This might be one the Luddites would lose out on. There are a lot of disease specific lobby groups that would be very angry if this didn’t move forward.

        When the protests start we should get a bunch of toughs, festoon them in red, light blue and pink ribbons and send them in to do some melee damage to waifish, vegan anti-GMO hipsters.

        1. I would hope you’re right. Then again, we could get groups like the knuckleheads who opposed things like cochlear implants because it would destroy “deaf culture”.

          1. Wait, that was a thing? I assume the group didn’t consist of actual deaf people?

            1. Oh, it most certainly did/does.

              1. So deaf people who wanted to force other deaf people to stay deaf?

                1. It’s baffling, but some have tried to explain it.

                2. They don’t want to hear your deaf-culture-hate, Brandon.

                3. Yes. Truly sickening.

          2. If ACT UP does anything other than hulk-smash anti-CRISPR advocates I’m going to need blood pressure medication.

  2. Oh noez, GMOs.


    1. The Kochs want to rewrite your DNA! SEE? GMOs EVERYWHERE!!

  3. So when can we become Dunedain men instead of regular men?

    1. Or maybe Elves.

      1. Sounds gay.

        1. “They’re not gay, they’re Hobbitts!”

          1. “What’re you guys playin’?”

            “Harry Potter!”


      2. The Dunedan gets to bang Liv Tyler. I’ll go with that, thanks.

  4. Wake me up when they can eliminate the Warty threat.

  5. Don’t worry, anti-GMO luddites: the FDA will surely let any treatments developed from this technology languish in bureaucratic purgatory until long after all those icky sick poor people have already succumbed to the diseases they eliminate.

    1. Don’t worry, anti-GMO luddites: the FDA will surely let any treatments developed from this technology languish in bureaucratic purgatory until long after all those icky sick poor people have already succumbed to the diseases they eliminate.


      The FDA is nothing if not a hole for good technology that can save lives to go and die.

      1. The FDA government is nothing if not a hole for good technology that can save lives to go and die.


      2. Medical tourism to Mexico. Problem solved for most people.

        1. Border police would refuse entrance, as you are no longer the same person who left, and your passport is REVOKED.

    2. The cool part is, CRISPR is actually a simple enough technology that any semi-competent grad can do it if they have access to an RNA sequence facility, an account to pay them with, liposome stuff (easy), and skills in protein purification from bacteria. CRISPR is a bacterial protein, so it should express in that system no problem!

      1. Woah, woah, slow down their cowboy. We can’t have these 20 year old kids touching our children’s genes with SUPERBACTERIA without government approval.

        If you need license to work at supercuts and rearrange people’s furniture for money, imagine what you’ll need to do gene therapy.

        1. Can only imagine what sort of doomsday scenario they’ll think up as a reason to either ban or so heavily regulate that it creates an effective ban.

          “28 Days Later was a precautionary tale!”

          1. So why don’t the developers just tell the US Government to go fuck themselves and set up shop elsewhere?

            1. Juarez is probably a reasonable choice. Tijuana might be better though, as it’s closer to SF, and I imagine that there’s a larger population of HIV+ people there than anywhere else in the States.

              South Africa might be another good bet.

              1. Bostwana: 1/3 the population is HIV+. For real.

        2. Then do it illegally. It’s easy enough to do that.

  6. It’s impossible for me to gush enough about CRISPR. It’s muh porn. This is it, this is how we customize ourselves. No more viral vector BS, just CRISPR (and RNAi too for temporary expression KO without altering the genome). The technology is so damn simple any graduate can do it!

    The problem in vivo is barriers such as the blood-brain barrier. The above HIV experiment was conducted in vitro so it doesn’t have to deal with any of that. If there’s any HIV behind the BBB, it won’t eliminate it. There are other difficult to reach places too. That, and there’s a probability distribution that means you won’t CRISPR all of the target cells. This is a problem for RNAi too. I have an idea that can solve at least the first and maybe second problem.

    1. Duh. Spread it to on appropriately sized set of rocks and drop from an appropriate height. Bam, even distribution throughout the corpse body, reaching all the places.

    2. Can we use it to make the skin of Yemeni and Pakistani children lighter so,they’re not as likely to get murderdroned by our government?

      1. The race card: not just for liberals!

        A better idea would be to alter Yemenis and Pakistanis to make it less necessary to murderdrone them.

        1. Lighten up, Francis.

          1. Can the propensity to go to weddings and funerals be isolated to a targetable gene?

            1. You want to eliminate Hugh Grant, is that it?

            2. ….what if….we could eliminate twerking?

              1. I’d settle for eliminating Miley Cyrus

        2. Lee Harvey – you remember that time you told us about the cow….I wanna PARTY with you!

          /or something like that

    3. Aren’t there certain antibiotics that cross the BBB? Could something like that be used as a carrier?

      1. Abs will cross the BBB but nucleic acid is too charged and too big (pretty sure). A ‘carrier’-liposome or whatever will just make it even bigger. Open the BBB…or synthesize what you need in situ.

    4. Removing as much viral latency as possible and tweaking the immune system to reflect that of a long-term non-progressor should halt the progression of illness in a patient even if latency isn’t entirely eradicated. It should also keep viral loads at “undetectable” and make passing on the virus incredibly unlikely.

      But yes, ideally you’d be able to find ways to eliminate all latency even past the blood brain barrier, but if you’ve gotten to the AIDS dementia complex point you may already be too far gone.

      1. We can already achieve non-progression and HIV loads beneath detection with HAART and some experimental monoclonals. I want to cure this thing.

        A better idea I think would be to force the HIV out of proviral latency, and let HAART kill it.

        1. But HAART requires constant maintenance and people fall off their regimens but still identify as undetectable and infect others (not often, but often enough to be an issue).

          I’d read something about forcing HIV out of latency and wiping it out systemwide, but is that something that’s actually feasible or is it just something that would theoretically be nice?

          1. Okay that’s a good point. Maybe the CRISPR would make sense although I think the HIV would slowly rebuild its latency pool it isn’t wiped out. Definitely a good idea.

            Forcing HIV out of hiding is definitely feasible…I think. Pretty sure butyric acid or some other acid often found in probiotics might be able to do it. If you DON’T want to reactivate your HIV, avoid those!


            1. Wouldn’t you then have a hard time making sure the butyric acid (isn’t that a huge component in butter oil?) would be spread system wide?

              While I’d love to see us capable of wiping the fucker out completely, I’d settle for halting progression and preventing further spread. People can take their latent cells to their grave and humanity can move on.

    5. I am tickled pink about this! Geek out!

    6. There is some cool research about using ultrasound to temporarily open the BBB. Could be easy enough soon to open it for 24 hours while your therapy courses through the blood.

      1. The Better Business Bureau is already involved?

        Go figure!

  7. FedGov bans this “for your own good” in 5,4,3….

  8. So THIS is what that one dude was on about in the thread yesterday…no “immuno deficiency” disease or virus, or something.


    Good to know.

  9. I’d like to know what affect CRISPR modification has on the target DNA’s methylation in targetted cells and bystander cells (different cell types have different methylation profiles).

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