Published: April 7, 2016
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 9,961 youth (13-24 years old) were diagnosed with HIV in the United States in 2013. HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, is a virus that attacks the body’s healthy immune system. Over time, the immune system becomes destroyed and unable to fight off any infection, including the common cold.
When the immune system is this destroyed as much as this, the infected person is said to have AIDS, acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Current treatment includes antiretroviral therapy, which slows the rate of HIV division in the body, preventing the spread of the virus.
Although there is currently no cure for HIV and AIDS, recent advances have been made to both improve the quality of life for HIV/AIDS patients and find a possible cure for AIDS.
Recently, surgeons at Johns Hopkins University performed the first liver transplant between two HIV positive patients. Legislation just lifted a 25-year ban on transplants with HIV positive patients, making this possible. This surgery, along with a kidney transplant between HIV patients, is part of ongoing research to see if a HIV-to-HIV transplant is beneficial for the recipient. One concern with donating an infected organ is the exposure to a second strain of HIV, possibly re-infecting the recipient.
In a recent article published in “Nature,” researchers from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University published a study about the possibility of using CRISPR/Cas9 as a way to cure AIDS. CRISPR/Cas9 is a technique for genome engineering that allows researchers to make specific breaks in the DNA at protospacers, known short sequences (about 20 base pairs long) that are separated by another short palindromic sequence. The sequence recognized by CRISPR/Cas9 can be chosen based on the where the researchers want to cut the DNA. This current study used RNA guided CRISPR/Cas9 to edit the host DNA in order to remove the HIV-1 genome, thus removing the virus from the host’s DNA. Furthermore, the study showed that no adverse affects were observed that could compromise a person’s genome.
This week the Center for Health, Education and Wellness has been raising awareness for HIV and AIDS. CHEW’s Peer Health Educators hoped to debunk common myths about HIV and AIDS that current college students may believe. There often is a stigma to being tested for HIV, but CHEW hopes to encourage more people to learn about their HIV status. Watch out for balloons labeled “9.5 minutes” and more HIV and AIDS statistics today and tomorrow.
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