U prof. gets $3.7 million grant for HIV research

Research could lead to improved HIV treatments and vaccines

Branden Largent

A University of Minnesota researcher is a few years away from potentially improving treatments and vaccines for HIV.

The National Institutes of Health   gave the associate professor Pam Skinner   and her collaborator a five year $3.7 million grant for HIV research.

Skinner, along with University of Colorado Denver  Professor Elizabeth Connick , will spend the next five years finding why virus-killing cells can’t find and kill HIV-infected cells.

Skinner said their research could possibly lead to improved drugs for HIV treatment, vaccines or “Ideally, a cure. But that’s a high in the sky dream.”

Connick and Skinner discovered that HIV-infected cells are mostly found in lymph node tissues, particularly B cell follicles.
Most of the HIV-infected cells are located in an area where virus-specific CD8 T cells—which kill HIV cells—are not located.
They will be working to understand what prevents the virus-killing cells from reaching the HIV-infected cells and why HIV replicates mostly in B cell follicles.

If they are successful, Skinner said they would next try to engineer virus-killing cells “to migrate into follicles to see if they can go in there and clear that reservoir of viruses that concentrate in that specific spot.”

Look for full coverage, including the University’s history of HIV research, in Monday’s Daily.