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HI virus reservoirs

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 microglia.

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.


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