Zaza Ndhlovu of the Africa Health Research Institute in South Africa and Fekadu Tafesse of Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) will identify the molecular mechanisms enabling HIV to survive in humans to help develop new therapies to fully eradicate the disease. Potent antiretroviral therapies have rendered HIV a manageable chronic disease, but it is still incurable. Needing daily medication over a lifetime makes this approach ultimately expensive and also challenging to maintain in low-resource settings. The virus is thought to evade existing therapies by locating to lymph nodes where it is protected from being destroyed by CD8 T cells. CD8 T cells are banned from lymph nodes because they don't express the CXCR5 protein. They have discovered several epigenetic mechanisms that regulate CXCR5 levels. To follow up, they will screen 471 compounds that target epigenetic processes and may also upregulate CXCR5 in human primary CD8 T cells, and they will also test a known regulator of CXCR5 expression. Their results could lead to a gene therapy-based approach to cure HIV.
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