Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
Snuffing Out the Burning Coals
Infection by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that eventually leads to AIDS is presently incurable, in part because the virus hides from killer T lymphocytes. This type of white blood cell seeks out and eliminates virus-infected cells, which are commonly found in lymphoid follicles. HIV within infected cells “simmers” in these follicles for the life of an infected person, similar to burning coals in a grill.
Dr. Pam Skinner and her investigative team addressed this important medical conundrum in a study published in the Journal of Virology. They examined killer T cells in lymphoid follicles of rhesus monkeys that were infected with the simian immunodeficiency virus, a cousin to the human virus. The team discovered that although there were several inhibitory factors in follicles, such as regulatory cells that suppress T cell killing, some T cells were still able to eliminate infected cells within follicles. These studies support Dr. Skinner’s present research endeavors funded by three newly-awarded NIH grants to study how to make killer T cells migrate into lymphoid follicles and potentially cure HIV infections.
by David R. Brown,PhD, VBS Vice Chair