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Claudia Avalos

Class 2010
Education BS, Florida State University

Dr. Janice Clements

Current Position Medical School

University of Maryland Medical School

Research Interests

Despite the use of highly active anti-retroviral therapy, HIV patients are susceptible to develop neurologic disorders. In addition, availability of drugs and their efficiency in reducing virus reservoirs in the brain is highly reduced by the blood-brain barrier. HIV enters the brain during acute infection and is thought to replicate in cells of myeloid lineage such as microglia and perivascular macrophages. Once peripheral monocytes become infected they can travel the blood and populate the brain parenchyma where they differentiate into macrophages and start the production of more virus.

Macrophage populations are highly plastic and can exhibit different phenotypes depending on the signals available in the surrounding environment. According to cytokines secreted by neighboring cells, macrophages can exhibit a pro-inflammatory, anti-inflammatory or alternative activation. The roles of the different macrophage phenotypes during HIV infection is still unclear.

In the retrovirus lab, we use an accelerated SIV infected pigtailed macaque model that closely mimics HIV infection and disease progression in humans. In addition, we use monocyte derived macrophages to study the effect of cytokine treatments in their response to SIV infection. Using both models, my project aims to dissect the distinct roles of cytokine activation in myeloid cells and their effect on disease permissibility.