El Dr. Mathias Lichterfeld, del Brigham and Women’s Hospital de Boston, intervendrá este miércoles en la primera sesión plenaria del Congreso GeSIDA 2019, en donde hablará sobre el perfil multidimensional de los repertorios del VIH. En esta entrevista avanza algunas de las claves de su intervención.

Your paper on Multidimensional profiling of HIV-1 reservoir cells will serve to open the GeSIDA 2019 Congress plenary sessions. What are the main aspects that you will cover?

I will show novel technologies to analyze the quantity and quality of viral reservoir cells, and give a couple of examples of how these technologies can be used in different types of patients, including those with natural control of HIV-1 infection

 Your scientific work in the field of reduction or elimination of HIV-1 reservoirs is prolific. What are the main challenges in this field and what kind of progress do you predict soon?

The main challenge is that these reservoir cells are extremely small, and there is no way currently to isolate them directly. I believe there will be continuous progress to analyze these cells in the future, which will then allow to target them in a more specific way.

 What are the remaining challenges in the knowledge and management of reservoirs?

All interventions to target viral reservoirs in clinical setting have not been very succesful so far. It comes down to gain better insight into the biology of these cells. The following questions are of particular interest: What distinguishes them from normal, HIV uninfected cells? How do viral reservoir cells managed to persist lifelong? Do they have specific vulnerabilities that can be exploited for therapeutic purposes?

You also work in the field of pediatric HIV. Recently you have published the results of a study that shows the benefits of applying ART immediately in newborns. After these results, where are you going to address your line of research to? Do you work on other research projects that also concern pediatric HIV?

HIV-infected neonates who are started on treatment immediately after birth are very special patients – they are more difficult to treat (all hiv drugs currently available were originally developed for adults, and have only been repurposed for use in neonates and infants), but such early treatment may also provide unique oportunities for developing HIV cure and eradication concepts. We hope to be able to follow these early-treated infants long-term, and see how such early treatment may influence viral reservoirs and immune responses.

Together with the areas in which you are currently working, from what other fields do you consider relevant results for the search for HIV cure? 

A number of important clinical trials are currently underway that are designed to target viral reservoir cells with novel drugs and immune interventions. These studies will be highly informative to better characterize therapeutic approaches that may be able to reduce HIV persistence despite currently available ART.