By Kim Glovas

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Researchers at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University have pushed a cure for HIV one step closer to reality.

Lead investigator Doctor Kamel Khalili says researchers used gene editing technology to remove a segment of HIV-1 DNA from living rats and mice.

“Initially, we started this strategy in the cell culture in the laboratory, and showed that the method that we developed is highly specific, and is harmless to the cells,” he said. “The outcome was converting the infected cells into cells which are virus-free.”

Khalili says currently HIV patients are treated with drugs that keep the virus in check. But the cells regenerate as soon as drug treatment is stopped. He says with gene editing, the infected cells are completely removed.

“If the goal is to complete eradication of the viral from the infected individual,” he said, “at least we have something that we know it works in an animal model.”

Khalili adds that it could be a few years before the technology is used in human clinical trials.