A treatment to "functionally cure" HIV is being tested in humans
4 November 2021, 17:24
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There is currently no cure for HIV.
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Human trials are about to begin on a promising one-time HIV treatment that could be a potential "cure" for the virus.
In September, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Excision Biotherapeutics' request to start testing their HIV treatment, called EBT-101, on people with HIV. The technology, called CRISPR, was discovered at Temple University in Philadelphia and uses gene editing to cut out pieces of human DNA. Researchers hope this will stop the HIV genome from mutating in the body.
EBT-101 has already been proven to be effective in cutting out portions of the HIV genome in previous trials using non-human primates and lab-isolated human cells.
"If you just make a single cut, the virus can mutate around it. We make multiple cuts to deactivate the viral genome," Excision CEO Daniel Dornbusch told Fierce Biotech.
There is currently no cure for HIV but it's possible to manage the virus so that it's undetectable, which means it can not be passed on. However, that requires the person with HIV to take daily antiretroviral therapy medications (ART) for the rest of their life that have side effects.
The treatment would be given in a single dose via IV over one to two hours. Participants in Excision's trial will have to continue taking ART for three months after getting their dose of EBT-101. The participants will then stop taking ART and then will be monitored by medical professionals, Philadelphia magazine reported.
"The goal, of course, is to find the first therapeutic to create functional cures for HIV," Daniel Dornbusch told the publication. "The term ‘functional cure’ is an important distinction, as there will be no way to determine if EBT-101 will remove every viral genome from an individual, which is called a 'sterilising cure'."
He continued: "However, sterilising cures are not necessary, as the goal of the therapy will be for individuals to remain HIV negative by RNA testing, maintain normal levels of immune cells, and cease taking antiretroviral treatment – achieving a functional cure."
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