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Katherine Bruner

Class 2012
Education BS, University of Texas at Dallas

Dr. Bob Siliciano

Research Interests

Currently, the major barrier to a Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV-1) cure is the existence of a latent reservoir of virus in CD4+ T cells. This reservoir arises when HIV-1 infects activated or partially activated CD4+ T cells as they are returning to a quiescent memory state that is non-permissive for viral gene expression. Following cellular activation of the host T cells, these viruses can begin replicating and rekindle the infection. While some integrated proviruses are replication-competent and pose a barrier to an HIV-1 cure, a large proportion is defective. Efforts to eradicate HIV-1 from the latent reservoir have centered on latency reversing agents that induce viral gene expression without global T-cell activation. This “shock and kill” method would induce viral genome expression, and HIV-1 specific CD8+ T cells would then kill infected cells. In order to successfully evaluate latency reversing therapy, it is necessary to accurately measure the latent reservoir. Currently, there are no accurate methods to measure and distinguish proviruses with intact genomes from defective proviruses. For my thesis project, I am characterizing the types of proviruses found in patients treated either early or late in the course of HIV-1 infection as well as developing a rapid and scalable assay for the HIV-1 latent reservoir that can distinguish intact from defective genomes.