Pamela Skinner, Ph.D., associate professor in the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, and longtime collaborator Liz Connick, M.D., professor at the University of Colorado Denver, have been awarded a five-year research grant totaling more than $3.7 million from the National Institutes of Health.
Their research could ultimately contribute to the development of a protective vaccine or treatment for HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the virus that causes AIDS.
Skinner is excited to have received the grant.
“In a nutshell, we found that HIV and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-infected cells are concentrated in lymphoid tissues within B cell follicles, whereas HIV/SIV-specific CD8 T cells—whose job it is to track down and kill virus-infected cells—are concentrated outside of B cell follicles and are unable to clear the reservoir of virus-producing cells inside of B cell follicles,” said Skinner.
In other words, U of M and UC Denver researchers found that HIV causing-agents build up in a place where the body’s virus-killers can’t get them.
They have now been awarded money to investigate mechanisms that mediate HIV colonizing in those hard-to-reach places. They’ll also look at making the cells that kill virus-infected cells more accessible to the inside of the B cell follicles in question.
The research will provide a wealth of new information on the cells that foster HIV-1 replication in B cell follicles. Factors that may promote or impair lentivirus replication will also be explored.
The project, titled “Mechanisms Underlying Persistent Lentivirus Replication in Follicular T Cells,” started December 1 and will continue for five years.