With 37 Million HIV-positive people and more than 2 Million new infections annually, HIV remains a major world health challenge. Even though enormous advances have been made in HIV treatment, a complete cure from the disease is still not possible. Indeed, the propagation of the virus in the body can nowadays be held in check through medication, but the provirus remains present in cells of the body.
A team of researchers from the Department of Medical Systems Biology at the TUD as well as the research unit Antiviral Strategies at the HPI in Hamburg employed directed molecular evolution to generate a designer recombinase (Brec1), which can precisely remove the provirus from the majority (>90%) of clinical HIV-1 isolates found in humans.
The team now demonstrated for the first time, that the approach works on cells directly isolated from HIV-1 patients. Importantly, the antiviral effects were accomplished without measurable cytotoxic or genotoxic side effects. Based on these findings, Brec1 represents a promising candidate for possible applications in improved HIV therapies.