Another sponsored project at the University of Cologne refers to virus reservoirs in certain
types of white blood cells called macrophages and dendritic cells. These cells are of particular
interest since the are not prone to cell death like infected CD4 or helper T-lymphocytes,
but sustain virus production for long periods of time. These cells only rarely divide and
are therefore less susceptible to antiretroviral therapy or HAART. Virus proliferation comes
from this reservoir when therapy is interrupted along with special cells in the brain termed
In the project that started early this year, the researchers try to analyze how
viral proteins manage to induce programmed cell death or apoptosis in macrophages and dendritic
cells. Specific proteins to be investigated are the HIV surface proteins such as gp 160 of
several HIV strains that primarily infect lymphocytes and/or monocytes and macrophages. The
cell death will be visualized using several immunologic and molecular biology techniques.
These experiments offer insight, how and when the multiplication of HIV can optimally be
suppressed in HIV-infected cells exposed to HAART. In addition, novel strategies to suppress
virus with fusion inhibitors and ribozymes, a gene therapy approach, will be investigated.