“Cure” HIV by Speeding Up the Virus’ Mutation?

It has been fifteen years since MIT professor John Essigmann proposed that in order to fight HIV, drugs should be developed that drastically increase the rate of the virus’ mutation. Essigmann’s idea has lead to the current use of inhibitors (drugs that force cells to mutate so quickly they weaken) for HIV treatment. Once HIV infects a cell, it “rapidly makes copies of its genetic material.” Rapid copying causes errors allowing the virus to mutate quickly and evade the immune system. Essigmann hypothesized that the virus could be starved of essential proteins if the mutation process is increased to an even more rapid pace, eventually killing the virus. Current HIV treatments fight the virus using Essigmann’s 15-year old idea of forcing cells to mutate at unsustainable rates, but researchers have not yet been able to completely “cure” patients.

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