Chinese scientists use CRISPR tool on HIV patient for the first time
Scientists are reporting the first use of CRISPR, a gene-editing tool, to try to cure a patient’s HIV infection by providing blood cells that were altered to resist the AIDS virus.
The report in the ‘New England Journal of Medicine’, by different Chinese researchers, is the first published account of using CRISPR to treat a disease in an adult, where the DNA changes are confined to that person. The attempt was successful in some ways but fell short of being an HIV cure. Still, it shows that gene editing holds promise and seems precise and safe in this pa
tient so far, said Carl June, a University of Pennsylvania genetics expert.
Gene editing permanently alters DNA. CRISPR is a new tool scientists can use to cut DNA at a specific spot. The case involves a 27-year-old man with HIV who needed a blood stem cell transplant. The transplant put his cancer in remission, and the cells that were altered are still working 19 months later. But they comprise only 5% to 8% of such blood cells, so they’re outnumbered by ones that can still be infected. “They need to approach 90% or more, I think, to actually have a chance of curing HIV,” June said.