Revolutionary Gene Therapy Offers Hope Against Herpes

Revolutionary Gene Therapy Offers Hope Against Herpes
Revolutionary Gene Therapy Offers Hope Against Herpes. Credit | Getty images

United States – For the first time, a gene therapy against the herpes simplex virus could provide a lasting cure, and the first report on the new treatment has been published.

Promise in Clearing Herpes Virus

The gene therapy cleared 90% or more of the ash virus in the mouse lab and also hindered the virus’s shedding by an affected animal, as reported in the journal Nature Communications on May 13.

The new kind of therapy is using an injection of gene-editing molecules for the search of hiding herpes viruses throughout the body, scientists informed, as reported by HealthDay.

Unveiling the Gene Therapy

“Herpes is very sneaky. It hides out among nerve cells and then reawakens and causes painful skin blisters,” explained researcher Dr. Keith Jerome, a professor in the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division at Fred Hutch Cancer Center in Seattle.

The gene-editing cocktail consists of laboratorians-altered delivery viruses, which are loaded with a molecule with the properties of a “molecular scissor,” said the researchers.

As soon as the delivery virus filaments get close to where herpes is concealed, the enzyme gets released. The enzyme then specifically cleaves the herpes virus’s genes to either dismantle or completely destroy it.

How It Works

According to Martine Albert, the leader researcher and principal staff scientist at Fred Hutch, “this enzyme cuts into two places of the herpes virus’s DNA.” Therefore, the virus cannot repair itself, as these cuts damage it immensely. Next, the body’s repair mechanisms distinguish the changed DNA as foreign and expel it from the cells.

Moving Towards Clinical Trials

An estimated 3.7 billion young people aged between 50 and 40 years old are affected by herpes simplex virus, one that leads to oral herpes, according to WHO estimates.

Along with those, an extra 491 million people from the 15 to 49 age category have herpes simplex 2, which produces genital herpes.

Promising Results in Lab Mice

According to this new investigation, we managed to remove 90% of facial infections and 97% of genital infections in lab mice who were infected with herpes simplex 1, scientists say.

The treated mice took around a month to reach those levels of infection, and the clearing of the pathogen seemed to be more complete over time.

“If you talk to people living with herpes, many are worried about whether their infection will transmit to others,” Jerome said in a cancer center news release. “Our new study shows that we can reduce both the amount of virus within the body and how much virus is shed.”

It is a revolutionary way of dealing with herpes infection using a straightforward mechanism that does not require many resources or lengthy sessions.

The 2020 research paper concluded that three varied delivery vehicles with two distinct enzymes could treat herpes. The study used one virus as the delivery vehicle and an enzyme capable of cutting the virus DNA at two locations.

“Our streamlined gene-editing approach is effective at eliminating the herpes virus and has fewer side effects to the liver and nerves,” Jerome said. “This suggests that the therapy will be safer for people and easier to make since it has fewer ingredients.”

Next Steps

Scientists are currently developing interventions that have been tested among humans so as to be explored in clinical trials.

“We’re collaborating with numerous partners as we approach clinical trials so we align with federal regulators to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the gene therapy,” Jerome said, as reported by HealthDay.

The science teams are also utilizing the gene editing technology to target the herpes simplex two viruses.