HIV can cut and paste in the human genome

May 27, 2014
Scanning electron micrograph of HIV-1 budding from cultured lymphocyte. Credit: CDC.gov/Cynthia Goldsmith

For the first time researchers have succeeded in altering HIV virus particles so that they can simultaneously, as it were, 'cut and paste' in our genome via biological processes. Developed at the Department of Biomedicine at Aarhus University, the technology makes it possible to repair genomes in a new way. It also offers good perspectives for individual treatment of both hereditary diseases and certain viral infections:

"Now we can simultaneously cut out the part of the genome that is broken in sick , and patch the gap that arises in the which we have removed from the genome. The new aspect here is that we can bring the scissors and the patch together in the HIV in a fashion that no one else has done before," says associate professor in genetics Jacob Giehm Mikkelsen from Aarhus University.

'Hit-and-run' technique leaves no traces

At the same time, the team of researchers from Aarhus have developed a technique that increases the safety of the cutting process, the so-called "gene editing":

"In the past, the gene for the scissors has been transferred to the cells, which is dangerous because the cell keeps on producing scissors which can start cutting uncontrollably. But because we make the scissors in the form of a protein, they only cut for a few hours, after which they are broken down. And we ensure that the virus particle also brings along a small piece of genetic material to patch the hole," says Jacob Giehm Mikkelsen.

"We call this a 'hit-and-run' technique because the process is fast and leaves no traces".

Viruses become nanoparticles

The researchers have benefited from many years of intense research into HIV as this has e.g. shown that HIV particles can be converted into transporters of genetic information. But when they also become transporters of proteins that are not normally found in the cells, as is the case now, the particles are altered. Virus particles are converted into nanoparticles which carry the substances that can have a direct effect on the treated cells.

HIV infection is one of the areas where the researchers want to make use of the technique, and here the goal is to stop a specific gene from functioning - something that the protein scissors can do.

"By altering relevant cells in the immune system (T cells) we can make them resistant to HIV infection and perhaps even at the same time also equip them with genes that help fight HIV.

"So in this way HIV can in time become a tool in the fight against HIV," says postdoc and PhD Yujia Cai of the research team. The results have recently been published in the scientific journal eLIFE.

Explore further: New target to fight HIV infection identified

Related Stories

New target to fight HIV infection identified

October 1, 2013
A mutant of an immune cell protein called ADAP (adhesion and degranulation-promoting adaptor protein) is able to block infection by HIV-1 (human immunodeficiency virus 1), new University of Cambridge research reveals. The ...

Scientists find the invisibility cloak that shields HIV-1 from the immune system

November 21, 2013
Of the two major types of HIV, only one, HIV-1, typically causes AIDS in infected people who don't receive treatment. A study published by Cell Press November 21st in the journal Immunity reveals how HIV-1 escapes detection ...

Study provides new knowledge about the body's fight against HIV

October 31, 2013
A study of the body's reactions to the HIV virus by Danish researchers has led to new understanding of the immune system's fight against HIV. The discovery is an important step on the road towards the future development of ...

Kinesin 'chauffeur' helps HIV escape destruction

October 22, 2012
A study in The Journal of Cell Biology identifies a motor protein that ferries HIV to the plasma membrane, helping the virus escape from macrophages.

Seeing through HIV's disguises: Researchers identify 25 human proteins that may be crucial for HIV-1 infection

February 27, 2013
Studying HIV-1, the most common and infectious HIV subtype, Johns Hopkins scientists have identified 25 human proteins "stolen" by the virus that may be critical to its ability to infect new cells. HIV-1 viruses capture many ...

Recommended for you

Paris spotlight on latest in AIDS science

July 21, 2017
Some 6,000 HIV experts gather in Paris from Sunday to report advances in AIDS science as fading hopes of finding a cure push research into new fields.

Scientists elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV in calves

July 20, 2017
Scientists supported by the National Institutes of Health have achieved a significant step forward, eliciting broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) to HIV by immunizing calves. The findings offer insights for HIV vaccine ...

Heart toxin reveals new insights into HIV-1 integration in T cell genome

July 20, 2017
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 may have evolved to integrate its genetic material into certain immune-cell-activating genes in humans, according to new research published in PLOS Pathogens.

Scientists capture first high-resolution image of key HIV protein transitional state

July 13, 2017
A new, three-dimensional snapshot of HIV demonstrates the radical structural transformations that enable the virus to recognize and infect host cells, according to a new study led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute ...

Barrier to autoimmune disease may open door to HIV, study suggests

July 11, 2017
Researchers from the University of Colorado School of Medicine have discovered that a process that protects the body from autoimmune disease also prevents the immune system from generating antibodies that can neutralize the ...

Team tests best delivery mode for potential HIV vaccine

June 20, 2017
For decades, HIV has successfully evaded all efforts to create an effective vaccine but researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology (LJI) are steadily inching ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.