Research:Inactivation of particular genes would protect T cells from HIV
Scientists at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, in an article published in Nature Genetics, stated that they have discovered genes in the human body that might be used in a future gene therapy-based HIV treatment. The researchers have used a special technique called CRISP-Cas9 to scan T-cell genes to figure out which particular genes are essential for the HIV virus to invade the cell and replicate. The researchers were able to identify three new genes. Two are involved in the production of enzymes (TPST2 and SLC35B2) that help the virus attach to the T cell, and one (ALCAM), is involved in cell-to-cell adhesion. Also, none of these genes are essential for cell well-being and inactivation of them could possibly protect CD4 cells from HIV infection without any harm to the immune system.
“Viruses are very small and have few genes—HIV has only 9, while humans have more than 19,000—so viruses commandeer human genes to make essential building blocks for their replication. Our goal was to identify human genes, also called host genes, that are absolutely essential for HIV to replicate but could be eliminated without harming a human patient,” said Bruce Walker, MD, director of the Ragon Institute.