Researchers have successfully eliminated HIV from a living animal for the first time, paving one more step towards a cure, reported Gay Star News.

The research team infected 29 mice with HIV then used modified anti-retroviral drugs, modified through a process called LASER ART, to maintain low activity levels in the virus. They then used a gene-editing technique to “snip out” HIV genes from the infected cells.

The process was a success; 30 percent of the mice no longer had any trace of HIV.

“This observation is the first step toward showing for the first time, to my knowledge, that HIV is a curable disease,” said director of the Center of Neurovirology and the Comprehensive NeuroAIDS Center at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine and study lead author Kamel Khalili. “Over the years, we have looked at HIV as an infectious disease. But once it gets into the cell, it’s no longer an infectious disease but becomes a genetic disease because the viral genome is incorporated into the host genome.”

“In order to cure the disease, we need a genetic strategy,” he continued. “Gene editing gives us the opportunity to eliminate viral DNA from host chromosomes without hurting the host genome.”

The research team plans to move on with the test with non-human primate subjects and will eventually move to human testing.

Matthew Hodson, the executive director of NAM, warned people living with HIV to be cautious; while this is a small step towards an eventual HIV cure, it’s still a long ways away.

“HIV is a tricky virus, which is why the search for the cure has proved so difficult,” he said. “As our experience with anti-retroviral therapy has shown, a combination approach is more likely to yield positive results. This research and the results are promising. I would caution that an effective and available cure as a result of this approach, if it comes, is likely to be a long way off. Although some of the mice in this study appeared to be cured, giving us proof of concept, the treatment did not work for two-thirds of the mice.”

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