Using CRISPR to combat HIV


Very exciting piece of news about the use of CRISPR, a “molecular defence system” that bacteria use, to cut up the HIV virus - both active and dormant - in human cells and treat HIV.

CRISPR uses bits of genetic material called guide RNAs to dictate its cuts, so the scientists developed guide RNAs that bound to unique spots on the HIV virus. They added CRISPR, the guide RNAs and other molecules needed for the system to work to immune cells that had been infected with HIV, and found that CRISPR successfully cut the right spots in HIV’s genes, inactivating the virus. This resulted in the virus being completely removed from up to 72 percent of cells. Not only did CRISPR chop up loose copies of the virus as they initially infected the cell, but it also cut up HIV that was hidden and dormant within the cells’ DNA.

It seems to me that this technique could potentially be used in a lot of other applications too.



This is the basis of RNAi technology.

There is a massive amount of research looking to use it for dealing with viruses.



How long, do you think, before we start seeing this sort of technique deployed in the real world? It does seem to be a very promising area of research, and I’ve seen CRISPR mentioned a lot recently in different contexts.



I should have said CRISPR was analogous to RNAi rather than a part of RNAi.

The main application of CRISPR would be to make single base changes to target viruses and to correct genetic mutations.

RNAi on the other hand targets sequences of expressed genes to trick the cellular machinery into destroying the mRNA.