Over the last 25 years, modern medicine has made tremendous advancements in the fight against HIV and AIDS. But despite our progress, there are still far too many unanswered questions.
Current therapy allows people with HIV to live longer, but we still cannot cure patients of the disease. We need more effective therapies and a new generation of medication that moves from virus suppression to virus eradication.
Researchers within the University of Minnesota's Program in HIV Medicine are currently exploring three main avenues of research:
- Eliminating persistent reservoirs of infection
- Repairing the immune system
- Reducing inflammation caused by HIV as it replicates
Eliminating Persistent Reservoirs of HIV Infection
Even when a patient is being treated for HIV, reservoirs of infection can remain throughout the body's lymphatic system. Persistent virus replication may lead to chronic immune system activation in patients, which can lead to accelerated aging, increased cardiovascular events and early mortality.
Through a comprehensive survey of all available antiretroviral drugs, our researchers hope to identify new combinations that can provide maximum penetration into the lymphatic system to deliver medication more effectively and stop virus replication in places we currently cannot reach.
Incomplete Immune System Reconstitution
Our immune system is the front line of our body's defense against infection. When we get sick, our body's immune system attacks the intruder, and then returns to full strength in preparation of the next illness. But for patients battling HIV, the immune system is constantly under attack and never fully recovers. This failure to reconstitute can cause residual problems for patients and heavily undercuts their ability to fight infection.
University of Minnesota researchers are currently exploring new treatment approaches aimed at reversing damage to the immune system caused by HIV while restoring the population of immune cells (CD4 cells) that are essential for normal immune responses.
As HIV replicates in a patient's lymphatic tissue, the immune system is significantly compromised by inflammation. Unless the resulting tissue damage is reversed, the immune system can't work in partnership with HIV therapy to combat infection.
In new clinical trials, University of Minnesota researchers are testing FDA-approved medication that may help reverse the inflammatory damage caused by HIV replication in lymphatic tissues.