Today is World AIDS Day. At a time where 34 million people around the world are estimated to have the virus, it is more important than ever to make sure we are on the right track to stopping one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
The Pulse has taken a close look at the work being done in HIV/AIDS research, and the cutting-edge technology being used in the race to find a cure.
Read on to learn more about how Dr. Crowe is looking to a special group of people called ‘non-progressors’, how Dr. Hope is using a microscope dubbed ‘the OMG microscope’ to look at the virus up close, and how Dr. Spearman is targeting a very small part of the virus that could play a big part in neutralizing it.
Dr. James Crowe MD, Director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center, has spent years looking at a special group of people who seem more resistant to the HIV than others. These ‘controllers’, or ‘non-progressors’ as they are sometimes called, are helping scientists more than ever before to discover how the body reacts to HIV.
“We are trying to use studies of the human immune response to HIV in order to understand the principles of immunity,” said Dr. Crowe. “If we could understand the rules of how to neutralize or clear HIV, then we could better design vaccines or new therapies.”
Dr. Thomas J Hope, Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology and leader of the Hope HIV Laboratory at Northwestern University, believes a cure or effective prevention approach could be on the horizon.
He has pioneered several new approaches to studying HIV. Using advanced methods, some of which he developed himself, Dr. Hope is able to directly observe individual HIV particles in action, from the moment they infect a cell to the moment they are transmitted to other cells.
“I started off looking at how individual [HIV particles] move within cells,” he said. “Then we began looking at multiple cells interacting and how the virus plays a role there… and now we’re actually trying to understand the transmission of the virus by looking at tissues and tissue sections in pretty great detail.”
Scientists now know that each HIV virus particle (called a virion) goes through a life cycle. The cycle is made up of steps which include infection, replication, assembly, budding and release.
At Emory University, Dr. Paul Spearman, MD, is looking to exploit that cycle, interrupting it at key points and stopping the virus dead in its tracks. He does this using the GE Deltavision OMXTM microscope and GE Healthcare Life Science’s AKTATM Protein Purification Systems.
“It is the last parts of the life cycle we’re looking at,” said Dr. Spearman. “That’s the exciting part to us. It’s defining the intricacies of that particular step, which we can then disrupt. Once we can manipulate that pathway, all the particles that are budding off from the cell l lack an envelope and are non-infectious. It’s a nice, targetable part of the assembly pathway as well, so we’re excited about that for the future.”
World AIDS Day is held on the 1st December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day, held for the first time in 1988. Learn more here.
The GE Healthcare GE Deltavision OMXTM and AKTATM Protein Purification Systems are for research use only. They are not for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes.