R. Paul Johnson of Emory University in the U.S. is using single-cell transcriptional profiling to identify unique biomarkers expressed in CD4+ T cells latently infected with HIV or the simian equivalent SIV. Latent infection of long-lived cells enables the viruses to survive current drug treatments, and makes the disease very difficult to cure. In Phase I, while working at Harvard Medical School in the U.S., they developed a robust high-throughput technique to identify viral genes expressed in single cells and tested it on SIV-infected macaques. In Phase II, they will use their approach to identify biomarkers on clinically relevant latently infected cell populations, which they will isolate from SIV-infected macaques treated with newly-developed antiretroviral regimens. These biomarkers could be used to design therapeutics that selectively target latently-infected cells to fully eradicate the virus.
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