OMAHA, Neb. — Breakthrough research from the University of Nebraska Medical Center has the ability to potentially change millions of lives all around the world.
"UNMC has joined forces with Temple University in Philadelphia to come up with a way to completely eliminate the HIV infection," Chancellor for UNMC and UNO Jeffrey Gold said.
"The first in the world, the first in the world to actually have been able to successfully eliminate HIV from an infected animal," said lead researcher Howard Gendelman.
That's correct, completely and successfully eliminated HIV from an infected animal. And not just any animal, humanized mice, with a human immune system makeup.
"A significant step forward is our ability to replicate what occurs in a human, in a mouse, using human cells and a human immune system," Gendelman said.
As stated in the study published earlier today, LASER ART technology developed here in Nebraska was able to reduce the amount of virus in the humanized mice significantly. So significantly that CRISPR-Cas9 technology, developed by Temple University, was able to go after and eliminate the rest of the virus in its entirety.
"We can generate genetic material that confine the virus in a late state, bind to that virus, and then use scissors, cutting enzymes, to cut the virus out and eliminate it completely. That will eliminate the virus coming back or the rebound we see commonly in our patients," Gendelman said.
But this research only involved mice. So what about humans, actual people, living with HIV?
"We have to translate these inventions from the mouse and upscale it so it's effective in a human," Gendelman said.
This process could still take a few years.
"We have to make sure that they're safe, that they're effective and that they don't have the side effects because when we move into patients we want to make sure that that first patient tested is experiencing something that will be safe for them," president and CEO of UNeMed Corp., Michael Dixon said.
The dose could be easy and simple, as simple as receiving one shot a year.
"You're going from 700 pills a year to potentially a single shot per year," Dixon said.
The executive director of the Nebraska AIDS Project, Brent Koster, says these findings are a glimmer of hope for the 40 million people around the world that live with HIV/AIDS.
"That is a complete game changer of course. We deal a lot with hope in our organization and this was a huge moment of hope for us," Koster said.
And that hope continues, because of breakthrough research right out of Omaha, Nebraska, HIV could possibly be cured all around the world.
"This is a journey, it doesn't happen overnight. But this is a significant milestone and it takes us one step forward to a complete cure to this devastating disease," Gold said.