AIDS research and therapy 2017 07 1414(1) 32 doi 10.1186/s12981-017-0157-8
Current treatment for HIV-1 largely relies on chemotherapy through the administration of antiretroviral drugs. While the search for anti-HIV-1 vaccine remain elusive, the use of highly active antiretroviral therapies (HAART) have been far-reaching and has changed HIV-1 into a manageable chronic infection. There is compelling evidence, including several side-effects of ARTs, suggesting that eradication of HIV-1 cannot depend solely on antiretrovirals. Gene therapy, an expanding treatment strategy, using RNA interference (RNAi) and programmable nucleases such as meganuclease, zinc finger nuclease (ZFN), transcription activator-like effector nuclease (TALEN), and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/CRISPR-associated proteins (CRISPR-Cas9) are transforming the therapeutic landscape of HIV-1. TALENS and ZFNS are structurally similar modular systems, which consist of a FokI endonuclease fused to custom-designed effector proteins but have been largely limited, particularly ZFNs, due to their complexity and cost of protein engineering. However, the newly developed CRISPR-Cas9 system, consists of a single guide RNA (sgRNA), which directs a Cas9 endonuclease to complementary target sites, and serves as a superior alternative to the previous protein-based systems. The techniques have been successfully applied to the development of better HIV-1 models, generation of protective mutations in endogenous/host cells, disruption of HIV-1 genomes and even reactivating latent viruses for better detection and clearance by host immune response. Here, we focus on gene editing-based HIV-1 treatment and research in addition to providing perspectives for refining these techniques.