We have published a new mini review in Frontiers in Microbiology, CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing to disable the HIV-1 provirus. The review comes from a collaboration with Amanda Panfil, Ph.D., and Patrick Green, Ph.D., in the OSU Center for Retrovirus Research and College of Veterinary Medicine. The review evaluates the possibility of using CRISPR genome editing to disable the HIV-1 provirus. The integrated provirus in latently infected cells is a major barrier to a cure for HIV-1. The genetic diversity of HIV-1 quasispecies in different compartments suggests that any genome editing based therapy should likely be customized for patients following viral sequencing. The abundance of quasispecies also suggests that multiple targets should be edited. Delivery of any genome editor to latently infected cells is a huge hurdle. Even if these conditions and obstacles are met and overcome, it’s not clear that all proviruses in a patient would be efficiently edited. However, recent data from post-treatment controllers suggests that perhaps not all intact proviral sequences must be eliminated to achieve a functional cure.
The CRISPR field and technology has advanced with incredible speed. Whether CRISPR targeting of the HIV-1 provirus will be part of a functional cure requires multiple advances, but is an intriguing possibility.