Researchers prove HIV targets tissue macrophages

March 8, 2016
HIV-1 Virus. Credit: J Roberto Trujillo/Wikipedia

Investigators in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine have clearly demonstrated that HIV infects and reproduces in macrophages, large white blood cells found in the liver, brain and connective tissues of the body. This discovery has significant implications for HIV cure research. Macrophages ingest foreign material, including infected CD4 T cells. Past studies concluded macrophages became infected upon ingestion of compromised CD4 T cells. By studying the virus in novel small animal models that have no T cells (the cells that easily support HIV infection), researchers found HIV infected macrophages, proving macrophage-tropic strains of HIV exist and can autonomously replicate in these important cells. These findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation on Monday, March 7.

"This study unequivocally demonstrates macrophages are a clear source of replicating virus," said Joseph Eron, MD, study co-author, and professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at UNC's School of Medicine.

Macrophages are myeloid lineage cells. To determine if are productively infected with HIV, the team used a humanized myeloid-only mouse (MoM) model. Using this model, they discovered macrophages can sustain HIV replication in the absence of T cells; HIV- are distributed in various tissues including the brain; replication-competent virus can be rescued from infected macrophages obtained from tissues of MoM; and infected macrophages can establish infection in new hosts. These results demonstrate that macrophages represent a genuine target for HIV infection that can sustain and transmit infection. The study's results also have implications for cure research.

"If the T cells were the only target of HIV cure research, eradicating the virus would still be tough," said J. Victor Garcia, PhD, study co-author, and a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at UNC. "Now we have demonstrated that there is another cell target where replicating HIV can be found, which could make eradicating the virus from the host and finding a cure for HIV/AIDS harder."

Now that Garcia, Eron and their teams know HIV targets macrophages and that the virus replicates there, the next step will be to introduce antiretroviral therapy into the models to see if the virus continues to replicate despite treatment.

"This model will allow us to ask the critical question as to whether or not represent a latent reservoir for HIV after treatment with antiretroviral therapy," said Jenna Bone Honeycutt, PhD, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Infectious Diseases at UNC. "These experiments will inform the future direction of HIV cure research as we know it."

Explore further: Researchers find that antiretroviral therapy reduces HIV in the female reproductive tract

Related Stories

Researchers find that antiretroviral therapy reduces HIV in the female reproductive tract

February 8, 2016
For the first time, investigators in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine have determined how antiretroviral therapy (ART) affects the way HIV disseminates and establishes ...

Immune cells proposed as HIV hideout don't last in primate model

October 31, 2014
Where does HIV hide? Antiretroviral drugs can usually control the virus, but can't completely eliminate it. So any strategy to eradicate HIV from the body has to take into account not only the main group of immune cells the ...

Antioxidants improve lung immune markers in HIV-infected patients who are immune non-responders

March 8, 2016
Some people with HIV infection experience a limited recovery of their T cell counts after they start antiretroviral therapy, even though the virus is well controlled. This leaves them at higher risk for other infections, ...

Researchers find tough new obstacle to HIV cure strategies

February 15, 2016
(Medical Xpress)—It's a good news/bad news scenario: Researchers have made a new discovery about HIV that will redirect curative strategies toward latent reservoirs of HIV—that's the good news. The bad news is that they ...

A potential role for fat tissue as an HIV reservoir and source of chronic inflammation

September 24, 2015
Viral persistence and chronic inflammation are two key features of HIV-positive patients on antiretroviral therapy (ART). A study published on September 24th in PLOS Pathogens reports results from macaques and humans that ...

HIV is still growing, even when undetectable in the blood

January 27, 2016
A team of international scientists led by Northwestern University found that HIV is still replicating in lymphoid tissue, even when it is undetectable in the blood of patients on antiretroviral drugs.

Recommended for you

Paris spotlight on latest in AIDS science

July 21, 2017
Some 6,000 HIV experts gather in Paris from Sunday to report advances in AIDS science as fading hopes of finding a cure push research into new fields.

Scientists elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV in calves

July 20, 2017
Scientists supported by the National Institutes of Health have achieved a significant step forward, eliciting broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) to HIV by immunizing calves. The findings offer insights for HIV vaccine ...

Heart toxin reveals new insights into HIV-1 integration in T cell genome

July 20, 2017
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 may have evolved to integrate its genetic material into certain immune-cell-activating genes in humans, according to new research published in PLOS Pathogens.

Scientists capture first high-resolution image of key HIV protein transitional state

July 13, 2017
A new, three-dimensional snapshot of HIV demonstrates the radical structural transformations that enable the virus to recognize and infect host cells, according to a new study led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute ...

Barrier to autoimmune disease may open door to HIV, study suggests

July 11, 2017
Researchers from the University of Colorado School of Medicine have discovered that a process that protects the body from autoimmune disease also prevents the immune system from generating antibodies that can neutralize the ...

Team tests best delivery mode for potential HIV vaccine

June 20, 2017
For decades, HIV has successfully evaded all efforts to create an effective vaccine but researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology (LJI) are steadily inching ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

mapesho1968
not rated yet Mar 09, 2016
I am hiv positive.I have a problem ,since i started taking hiv drugs my neck is fatter than i was.What could be the reason for this side effect and how can i reverse this side effect?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.