A spectacular step forward in the HIV cure
“Molecular Scissors” capable of removing the genetic information of integrated HI virus from infected human cells – this is the new exciting contribution of Frank Buchholz and his team to the research community and the society.
Since the identification of the HI virus in 1983, many scientists have been trying to understand and find a cure to HIV infection. In 2007, Prof. Dr. Frank Buchholz together with collaborators from HPI in Hamburg established an in vitro method to reverse the effect of HIV infection. They engineered an HIV-1 long terminal repeat (LTR) site-specific recombinase (“molecular scissors”) which expressed in genetically modified immune cells, cuts away HIV genetic material from infected host immune cells. As consequence the virus cannot survive in the host and dies. The immune cells return to full function, protecting the body from pathogen attack. Recently, with the generation of a second site-specific recombinase (broad-range anti-HIV-1 recombinase (Brec1)) the groups went one step further and could show the utility of such system in vivo, using humanized mouse models of HIV. Now, the focus is in translating their findings into the clinic to see if their method can ultimately bring a new therapy and cure to HIV infection.