Expert says gene editing could be ‘promising’ path to HIV cure

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Monday told Hill.TV that gene editing could prove to be promising in curing more HIV patients after a recent breakthrough has appeared to provide only the second-known cure to an HIV-positive patient. 

“What this particular experiment showed us, [is] that if somehow in a less risky way by, for example, gene editing, we may be able to manipulate this receptor [for the virus in the cell] or remove it, without necessarily doing a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. Then, that may be the way forward in a more practical way to apply this to many more people,” Fauci told hosts Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton on “Rising.” 

“People are actually working on that right now, where they take a person’s cells out of the body, and by gene editing, manipulate out this particular receptor, and then give the cells back to the person without having to do immunosuppression, without having to do a bone marrow transplant,” he continued.

“There are a number of centers that are actually doing that,” Fauci said. “Again, it’s still early in the phase of testing, so it’s not something that we could say looks like it’s going to work, but clearly there are important laboratories with people with considerable experience in gene editing looking at this and trying it in individual cases.” 

“Thus far, there have not been successes in the sense of proving that that type of gene editing works, but everyone feels in the field that it’s at least a promising way to pursue,” he said.  

The most recent breakthrough came 12 years after the first HIV-positive patient was cured of the disease. Both cures were a result of bone marrow transplants that were initially meant to treat cancer.

— Julia Manchester