Researchers have used the cutting-edge CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology to identify five potential targets for HIV treatments, including three new discoveries. Because these targets are all human genes, treatments that go after them are likely less likely to give rise to drug resistance compared with existing antiretrovirals (ARVs) that target proteins crucial to the rapidly mutating virus’s life cycle.

Publishing their findings in the journal Nature Genetics, researchers used CRISPR to screen a cell line taken from human CD4 cells, which HIV targets. They found five human genes that when switched off, protected the CD4 cells from infection with the virus without affecting the cells’ survival.

The two previously identified genes were the CCR5 gene, responsible for the coreceptor on the surface of CD4 cells to which most HIV attaches in order to infect the cell, as well as the CD4 gene itself.

The researchers also identified two enzymes, known as TPST2 and SLC35B2, that modify the CCR5 coreceptor in order to facilitate the virus’s effort to bind to it. The other new gene they identified is known as ALCAM, which helps CD4 cells stick to one another, which facilitates the transmission of HIV from cell to cell.

To read a press release about the study, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.