Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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HIV's Way In

Protein identified that helps HIV into cells where the virus is then harboured

11 February 2020

HIV's Way In

Lymph nodes (like the one pictured) are jam-packed full of immune cells and thus paradise for HIV – a virus that attacks and destroys such cells. And what’s worse, certain cells in lymph nodes called follicular dendritic cells act as reservoirs for the virus maintaining its infectivity and making the infection hard to treat. Now researchers have discovered in mice how HIV gets into these cells. They found that macrophage cells (cyan) lining the draining vessels act as transport shuttles for HIV particles (green speckles), carrying them to the underlying dendritic cells (blue). What’s more, they’ve identified a protein in the macrophages that's pivotal to this virus-shuttling process. Indeed, absence of the protein dramatically reduced the spread of HIV into the dendritic cells. By understanding how HIV is recruited to and harboured within these cells scientists have the chance to design new treatments that can limit HIV’s deadly occupation.

Written by Ruth Williams

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