Center for HIV Cure Research
The Gladstone Center for HIV Cure Research seeks to build upon the past success of the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology, but with a singular research focus: to identify, reduce, and control latent HIV reservoirs to allow infected individuals to eventually discontinue antiretroviral therapy. The center is directed by Warner C. Greene, MD, PhD, who is also co-director of the UCSF-Gladstone Center for AIDS Research, as well as a principal investigator and member of the board of directors of the amfAR Institute for HIV Cure Research at UCSF.
The “reduce and control” strategy involves decreasing the size of HIV reservoirs while engineering an immune response to control the remaining virus. While it does not fully eradicate the virus, this strategy find precedence in a small group of individuals termed “elite controllers” who are able to control HIV without the need for antiretroviral drugs.
The scientists will search for potent and nontoxic ways to wake up the latent virus, in order to precisely define the types of cells that comprise the reservoirs and allow for contraction of the reservoirs. They will also examine the role of resident memory CD4 T cells that do not circulate in the blood stream and T-follicular helper cells that chiefly reside in lymphoid follicles as reservoirs for latent virus. Interestingly, CD8 and NK cells are unable to traffic into lymphoid follicles. So, these killer cells will likely be needed to reduce the size of the reservoir.
The center will also pursue novel approaches to identify biomarkers for latently-infected reservoir cells. In general, only one latently infected CD4 T cell is present within 1 million CD4 T cells. Thus, cells participating in the latent reservoir are rare and currently cannot be purified because no biomarkers have been identified. In addition to allowing the purification of latently infected cells, such biomarkers could provide new therapeutic insights.
Collaborators will also include investigators from the Division of Experimental Medicine at UC San Francisco, the amfAR Institute for HIV Cure Research, and the Blood Systems Research Institute.