Designer Recombinase Removes Provirus from Infected HIV Cells

Discovery may lead to significant new HIV treatments.

There are approximately 37 million people living with HIV today, but researchers have found a way to remove the provirus found in infected cells, which could be used for future HIV therapy for these patients.

Researchers from the Department of Medical Systems Biology at Technische Universität Dresden (TUD) and the Heinrich Pette Institute (HPI), used directed molecular evolution in order to generate the designer recombinase Brec1.

Brec1 is able to remove the provirus precisely from approximately 90% (>90%) of clinical HIV-1 isolates that are found in humans.

The results of a study published in Nature Biotechnology showed that this particular approach was able to work on cells that were isolated from HIV-1. Furthermore, researchers were able to achieve these antiviral effects without any measurable cytotoxic or genotoxic side effects.

The data from the study shows that Brec1 has the potential to be used in future HIV therapies.

"The generation of molecular scalpels, such as the Brec1 recombinase, will change medical practice,” said head of TUD group, Frank Buchholz. “Not only HIV patients will likely benefit from this development, but also many other patients with genetically caused diseases. We are about to witness the beginning of the genome surgery era."