New Invention for Tracking HIV:

August 21, 2017

Scientists have developed a new way to track the HIV infection that can identify how individual particles infect each cell, and lead to novel therapies for prevention and treatment of the disease.
It has become routine to visualise the movement and progression of individual virions – individual infectious particles – in cells, but the relevance of these observations was previously unclear, as many virions are defective or do not progress to make further copies of themselves. “This approach – and the ability to say ‘that virion infected that cell’ – will help bring clarity to the field,” said Thomas Hope, professor at Northwestern University in the US.
“It allows us to understand what the virus really needs to do to infect a cell. It gives us new details, like where in the cell it happens and the timing of specific events. The more we know about the virus, the better our chances are to stop it,” said Hope. During the course of infection, HIV fuses onto a target immune cell and delivers its capsid – a cone that holds the genetic material of the virus – into the cell’s cytoplasm.
From there, the capsid disassembles through a process called ‘uncoating,’ which is crucial to the synthesis of viral DNA from its RNA genome and the hijacking of the cell’s functions. However, the specific details of uncoating have been controversial, with two groups of thought. One believed that uncoating takes place late at pores, allowing factors to enter the nucleus.
A second camp showed data suggesting that uncoating takes place early and in the cytoplasm. In part, the uncertainty persisted because previous methods in HIV research have been unable to distinguish between viral particles that actually lead to infection of the cell, and those that are irrelevant. In the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists used a novel live- cell fluorescent imaging system that allowed them for the first time to identify individual particles associated with infection.

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