In the 1990’s, it was discovered that HIV-1 has the ability to remain latent in resting memory CD4+ T cells, even in patients on suppressive ART (antiretroviral therapy). Latently infected cells, although rare in number with about one in a million, have an extremely long half-life and remain the barrier to eradication of HIV. There have been major efforts in the field since this discovery to develop latency reversing agents that will force the virus out of its dormant state, but there has been a lack of reliable and accurate assays that can quantify the true size of the latent reservoir. Without such an assay, eradication clinical trials are unable to determine whether or not there has been a reduction in latently infected cells with any tested pharmacological agents. My thesis project centers around developing an assay that can help determine the true size of the latent reservoir by performing multiple rounds of T cell activation on resting memory CD4+ T cells derived from ART-suppressed patients.
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