Israeli researchers develop technology to edit genes to fight HIV

Israeli researchers have developed a new technology that creates disease-fighting white blood cells to fight HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The researchers hope that the method, which uses CRISPR gene editing, could lead to effective one-off treatment for HIV and other diseases.

“We have developed an innovative treatment that can defeat the virus with a single injection, with the potential to lead to a huge improvement in the patient’s condition,” said Dr. Adi Barzel of Tel Aviv University, who is leading the study with PhD student Alessio Nehmad.

The HIV virus attacks the body’s white blood cells, weakening the immune system. There is no established cure for the disease, although it is now usually a chronic condition rather than the death sentence that once was – if there is appropriate treatment.

Researchers at the University of Tel Aviv, along with other scientists from Israel and the United States, said they had created genetically modified white blood cells type B to secrete anti-HIV antibodies. The technique has been found to be effective in animal models.

The new treatment involves injecting genetically engineered type B white blood cells into the patient’s body, which stimulates the immune system to secrete antibodies to fight the HIV virus.

Type B cells, a type of white blood cell, make antibodies that fight viruses, bacteria and other invaders. The Israeli team uses CRISPR gene editing technology to obtain encoded antibodies in the body’s B cells.

Gene editing is a way to permanently alter DNA to attack the root causes of disease. CRISPR is a tool for cutting DNA in a specific place. It has long been used in the laboratory and tested for other diseases.

Nehmad said in a statement explaining the technology: “When CRISPR cuts into the desired location in the genome of B cells, it directs the introduction of the desired gene – the gene encoding the antibody against HIV.

When the constructed B cells meet the virus in the body, the presence of the virus stimulates the B cells and encourages them to divide.

“We are using the very cause of the disease to fight it,” Barzel said. “If the virus changes, the cells will also change accordingly to fight it, so we created the first drug that can grow in the body and defeat viruses in the ‘arms race.'”

“We produced the antibody from the blood and made sure it was effective in neutralizing the HIV virus in the laboratory dish,” Barzel said. “All animal models that were treated were affected and had large amounts of the desired antibody in their blood.

Researchers hope that in the coming years, the technology will lead to the production of a cure for AIDS and other infectious diseases, including some cancers.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature on Thursday.

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