Functional characterisation of HIV-1 reservoirs in lymph nodes and peripheral blood mononuclear cells

Functional characterisation of HIV-1 reservoirs in lymph nodes and peripheral blood mononuclear cells

Associated Students: 
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Email Address: 
dtyachieng@hotmail.com;doty.achieng@gmail.com
Phone Number: 
+27 (0)31 260 4624
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Research has shown that the current antiretroviral therapy (ART) is highly effective in limiting HIV replication, prolonging the life span of infected individuals as well as reducing transmission. However, ART is not curative due to the establishment of a latent reservoir of cells, which are infected with a replication competent virus that is transcriptionally silent. The dormant virus hides in the sanctuary sites in the body for example in the brain and lymph node. This dormant virus is not expressed in the cells it infects and therefore cannot be cleared by the immune system as well as being targeted by ART. Therefore, a viable cure requires that this latent HIV reservoir is eliminated or permanently contained. One approach may require first reversing latency to remove the more easily reactivated latent virus, while at the same time boosting the immune system to eliminate the reactivated infected cells and prevent infection of other cells. This has the overall benefit of eliminating any virus that may become reactivated, such that ART can be safely discontinued. If ongoing virus replication in sanctuary sites during ART contributes to virus persistence, then improving penetration of ART into these sites should be high priority in HIV cure strategies, and if not, then cure strategies should primarily focus on eliminating long-lived latently infected cells. Ojwach’s post-doctoral research aims to determine whether reservoir variants are functional and have specific characteristics, which favour their replication or persistence during ART.