The Ongoing Quest to Find the Cure for HIV/AIDS

Clifford Lane, MD
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Although research through the years has led to ways to suppress human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in people who are infected, scientists are still challenged to figure out what will cure the infection.

A research team led by Dr. Clifford Lane, Deputy Director for Clinical Research and Special Projects at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID),  is using high-quality biospecimens from NDRI’s national network of tissue source sites to study how HIV persists despite combination anti-retroviral therapy. Lane’s research partners are Dr. Ven Natarajan of Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc., and Dr. Hiromi Imamichi, also of NIAID.

Their work is part of an NIH-funded HIV Replication Study conducted by Leidos Biomed, the operations and technical support contractor for the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research. Leidos subcontracted NDRI in 2017 to pilot an HIV tissue procurement program for the study.

The goal is to help scientists better understand how the virus reproduces in viral reservoirs — the tissues that harbor the virus — in patients whose viral load is suppressed to undetectable levels. Using a variety of tissue types from deceased donors with HIV, researchers will conduct DNA and RNA analysis of the persistent viral DNA and RNA viral in cellular compartments within different tissue types, and then use this understanding to improve HIV therapies.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV, which can progress to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). NDRI worked with multiple tissue source sites to identify HIV-infected deceased donors whose death was caused by something other than their HIV infection to better understand the nature of HIV reservoirs.