Rethinking the reservoir

How Scripps researchers are aiming to cure HIV

It's time to rethink using "shock and kill" in HIV - a strategy that has made no serious progress in the last 16 years towards its goal of getting patients permanently off antiretroviral therapy (ART) - according to a group at The Scripps Research Institute. Rather than trying to flush out the last traces of infection from all the viral reservoirs, the researchers believe a better approach might be to put the latent virus to sleep permanently. Using cells from HIV patients treated with ART, a team led by Susana Valente showed that by inhibiting the transcription factor HIV tat, it could suppress viral replication and prevent viral rebound after withdrawal of ART.

"We are targeting suppression of the virus to such a point that no virus will be expressed in cells," said Valente, an associate professor in the Department of Immunology and Microbial Sciences at Scripps.

Despite the success of ART in suppressing HIV to the point where no virus is detectable in the blood, the virus inevitably rebounds within just a few weeks of withdrawing treatment. And while many infected patients

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