For more than two decades my laboratory has focused on utilizing the methods of cell biology to study HIV. I was one of the pioneers of taking this approach. To facilitate our work, we have developed a series of novel tools and approaches allowing the direct visualization of virions and infected cells in tissue culture and live animal models. Using live cell microscopy, we have found that HIV moves on microtubules. Further, we were able to define the mechanism of the enhancement of infectivity by dendritic cells through an "infectious synapse". Finally, we have revealed the dynamic nature of the interaction between HIV and TRIM5 alpha in the cytoplasm during restriction. We began to utilize these tools over the past 10 years to study the interaction of HIV with the mucosal barriers exposed during sexual transmission. These studies, utilizing human tissue explant models and the vaginal challenge non-human primate (NHP) models, have provided important insights into how HIV interacts with and penetrates apparently intact mucosal barriers to mediate sexual transmission. Although these studies defined potential paths of viral penetration through mucosal barriers to encounter would-be target cells, the role of paths for sexual transmission was unclear. Therefore, we developed a single round dual reporter SIV vector system that allows the macroscopic identification of the initial sites of infection in the female reproductive tract through luciferase activity and the identification of individual transduced (infected) cells through the expression of a fluorescent protein. We found that the entire macaque female reproductive tract (FRT) from the vaginal introitus to the ovaries was susceptible to infection, that the primary site of transmission was the vaginal vault, and that the primary targets of transduction were mucosal T cells. I am also the PI of the Viral Pathogenesis (basic science) Core or the Third Coast Center for HIV Research (TC-CFAR) at Northwestern University. My laboratory in association with the TC-CFAR has a world class imaging facility dedicated to the study of HIV. My team leverages this facility to develop and utilize state-of-the-art approaches to conduct studies of HIV Cell Biology and HIV related Mucosal Immunology.
Our lab includes the use of several microscopes and two of them are located in Nairobi, Kenya and Cape Town, South Africa. You can see one of them in our lab called "Timmy", "MPENZI" in Nairobi and "Shirley" at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Here is a list or our microscopes and names.