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HIV Pathogenesis Research

NIAID supports a large portfolio of investigator-initiated grants in HIV pathogenesis for a variety of areas, including mechanisms of viral entry, evasion, and replication; structure, function, and mechanism of action of viral genes and proteins; roles of cellular accessory molecules in replication; immunologic and virologic events controlling primary infection and formation of latent reservoirs; development of in vitro and ex vivo assays to monitor virus growth, immune responses, and reservoir status during HIV disease; animal models; and genetic analysis of host factors that modulate viral infection or disease progression. Knowledge gained from these studies helps researchers develop new agents and vaccines to combat HIV infection.

Goals of NIAID HIV Pathogenesis Research

  • Determine the structure, function, and mechanism of action of viral genes and proteins and how they interact with host cell genes and proteins to allow viral entry and replication in cells
  • Determine host genetic and other factors that modulate HIV transmission, replication, establishment of infection, and disease progression
  • Characterize all of the elements of the innate and adaptive immune responses to HIV in key anatomical sites (e.g., gut, genital tract, lymph nodes) during primary and chronic infection and their roles in controlling disease establishment and progression
  • Determine mechanisms of HIV transmission and establishment of infection, especially those involved in mucosal transmission
  • Determine host and viral factors modulating persistent cellular and tissue reservoirs of HIV, including compartmentalization of virus in different anatomical sites

Progress in HIV Pathogenesis Research

NIAID HIV pathogenesis research efforts have yielded significant scientific information about the basic biology of HIV and the immune response to HIV infection. For example, NIAID-funded investigators have identified the critical steps of how HIV uses the host machinery to enter and exit the cell, as well as the existence of multiple, persistent HIV reservoirs despite treatment with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). In response, researchers are focusing their efforts on identifying new strategies to understand and eliminate these reservoirs of latent HIV. Research has also identified genetic markers that influence progression to AIDS. Although much has been learned in recent years, questions still remain. Information about how the virus attacks the immune system and which aspects of the immune response are the most helpful in controlling the infection is critical to providing additional targets against which therapeutic interventions and vaccines can be directed.

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Last Updated April 17, 2008