This Week In HIV Research


This Week in HIV Research: New Proteins Target and Inhibit HIV; Fat Tissue Contains HIV Reservoir; PEP for Gay Men; and More

October 2, 2015

This week we read about a newly developed protein that can target and bind HIV to killer T cells, and about another protein that can inhibit HIV from infecting other cells. Another study suggests that HIV could be hiding in reservoirs within fat tissue. Plus, a study shows that only one in five gay teenage males gets tested for HIV.

To beat HIV, you have to follow the science!

Cure Research

DART Protein Shows Potential as Shock-and-Kill Strategy Against HIV

A newly developed molecule can target HIV-infected cells and bind them to killer T cells, according to research conducted at Duke Medicine, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and MacroGenics, Inc. The molecule is a type of bi-specific antibody known as a dual-affinity re-targeting protein (DART), according to the study press release.

In laboratory tests, the DART molecules were able to target various strains of the virus in cells that came from patients living with HIV. The researchers hope this new compound can work in conjunction with other drugs that activate latent HIV, as part of a "shock and kill" cure strategy. "As soon as [hidden HIV reservoirs] are awakened, the DART molecules hit them and causes the killer T cells to destroy the virus," lead study author Barton Haynes, M.D., said in the press release.



Researchers Discover a New Mechanism to Block HIV

Researchers have found a new way of inhibiting HIV, using proteins found within human cells, according to a new study from the University of Missouri. The proteins known as interferon induced transmembranes (IFITM) have antiviral properties and have shown activity against other viruses, including influenza A, West Nile, Dengue, Marburg and Ebola.

"Our research discovered that IFITM proteins can help inhibit the viral cell-to-cell infection, which is the most efficient way that HIV spreads," said study author Shan-Lu Liu, Ph.D. In particular, IFITM proteins inhibit the maturation of the glycoprotein on HIV's envelope, thereby taking away one of the main tools HIV uses to target and infect cells.

In the Clinic

Fat Tissue May Contain HIV Reservoir and Play Role in Chronic Inflammation

Researchers in France have identified adipose (fat) tissue as a neglected viral reservoir and as a source of chronic inflammation among people living with HIV, according to a study published in PLOS Pathogens. Looking at the stromal vascular fraction (SVF) part of adipose tissue (which contains immune cells such as CD4 T cells and macrophages), first in SIV-infected macaques, the researchers were able to identify cell-associated SIV DNA and RNA. Subsequent tests revealed HIV in the SVF of HIV-positive individuals.

Moreover, the researchers detected and reactivated replication-competent HIV in adipose tissue samples from six patients who were on treatment and virally suppressed. "Thus, adipose tissue may constitute a viral reservoir and be involved in long-term immune activation and inflammation -- even in [antiretroviral therapy]-suppressed patients," the authors conclude.


One in Five Teenage Gay and Bisexual Males Gets Tested for HIV

Only about one in five adolescent gay and bisexual men (AGBM) gets tested for HIV, according to a national Northwestern Medicine study. The study surveyed 302 AGBM between the ages of 14 and 18. About 50% of the participants were sexually active. Out of those who were sexually active, about 30% had ever been tested for HIV, and almost 43% did not know they could get tested.

The main barriers to not getting tested included, "not knowing where to go to get an HIV test, worries about being recognized at a testing site and -- to a lesser degree -- thinking they are invincible and won't get infected," according to the study press release. To help increase rates of testing, the study authors suggest providing ways to find nearby test sites through text messages or online programs, or by providing testing within high schools.

Single-Tablet Rilpivirine/Tenofovir/Emtricitabine as HIV Post-Exposure Prophylaxis in Men Who Have Sex With Men

Taking rilpivirine/tenofovir/emtricitabine (Complera) as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) was well tolerated, with high levels of adherence and completion, among a group of 100 HIV-negative men who have sex with men (MSM) needing PEP. Because completion rates of PEP tend to be low, researchers investigated the adherence and safety of rilpivirine/tenofovir/emtricitabine as PEP.

The PEP regimen was completed by 92% of the study participants, with 6% stopping because of loss to follow-up, 1% stopping because of adverse events, and 1% stopping because of study burden. Through 12 weeks, no participant tested positive for HIV. Adherence was about 98% based on both pill count and self-report.

Additionally, 86% reported taking the regimen with food, with 88% having blood tenofovir levels indicating full adherence. Eighty-eight of the study participants experienced at least one clinical adverse event, with only four of these grade 3 or higher.

Is there a development this week in HIV research that you think we missed? Send us a tip!

Warren Tong is the senior science editor for and

Follow Warren on Twitter: @WarrenAtTheBody.

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This article was provided by TheBodyPRO.

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