The oldest mystery about the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) – shown here infecting a T cell – has come one step closer to being solved. Patients with HIV can today lead almost normal lives thanks to very effective anti-viral drugs that stop the virus from multiplying. But as soon as they stop taking the drugs, the virus flares up again, even after years. This is baffling because the cell types that HIV most obviously infects have short lives. Yet HIV lurks for decades. Thus researchers wondered whether memory T stem cells – an important group of immune cells that live for many years and control other immune cells – could be HIV’s main hideout. Their hunch was confirmed and now new strategies for fighting HIV that borrow from decades-long research into cancer drugs targeting the long-lived tumour stem cells are being investigated.
Written by Tristan Farrow
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.