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Research Overview

"For more than 20 years, my laboratory has focused on utilizing the methods of cell biology to study HIV. Pioneering this approach, we developed a series of novel methods to visualize virions and infected cells in tissue culture and live animal models. Using live cell microscopy, we discovered that HIV moves on microtubules. Further, we defined the mechanism of the enhancement of infectivity by dendritic cells through an "infectious synapse." Finally, we revealed the dynamic nature of the interaction between HIV and TRIM5 alpha in the cytoplasm during restriction.

These studies, utilizing human tissue explant models and the vaginal challenge non-human primate 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, the role of paths for sexual transmission was unclear. We therefore developed a single-round dual-reporter SIV vector system that allows the macroscopic identification of the initial infection sites in the female reproductive tract through luciferase activity. We also identified individual infected cells through the expression of a fluorescent protein. We found that the entire macaque female reproductive tract 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 Principal Investigator of the Viral Pathogenesis Core, or the Third Coast Center for HIV Research (TC-CFAR) at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. 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."

Thomas Hope, PhD, Principal Investigator

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