Today, people with HIV receive lifelong antiretroviral therapy, which suppresses the virus and helps to delay the onset of AIDS for a long time. This is not a panacea, the virus still remains in the cells and if therapy is stopped, it can be activated. Scientists have long sought a way to eradicate HIV while it is dormant, and recently a team at the University of California, San Diego found a solution.
Researchers have discovered a new RNA molecule called lncRNA, a long non-coding RNA. She was dubbed HEAL (HIV-1 Enhanced LncRNA). It participates in protein replication indirectly as a control mechanism for error correction. And so far it has been seen only in cells with HIV, which made it possible to assume that the destruction of HEAL will stop the process or even make it impossible.
Scientists have launched a series of experiments on human immune cells grown in a laboratory. They turned HEAL off or removed it altogether with the CRISPR-Cas9 tool. In all cases, HIV was stopped - the virus did not reproduce, even when placed in ideal conditions. This suggests that it will soon be possible to create an effective treatment for HIV-infected people.
The authors of the study honestly admit that they do not yet know the true purpose of HEAL, they only state that this molecule plays a decisive role in the pathogenesis of HIV. This means that new research is needed, and a lot of time will pass before scientists dare to conduct experiments on animals, and even more so on humans. But there is hope and the path for further work is indicated.