How Does HIV Really Spread? Direct Cell-to-Cell Contact Says Study

After over three decades of research, we still don’t understand nearly enough about the AIDS causing pathogen, HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus. But a recent study has innovated the research process and presented a new understanding of the link between HIV and its spread in the human body.

ANI reported that a recent study in the journal Nature Communications disrupted the typical way HIV research is conducted, that is, in a test tube or a two-dimensional environment.

Instead, by using innovative cell culture systems, quantitative image analysis, and computer simulation, the study aimed to mimic the environment inside the three-dimensional, complex human body which is the site where HIV spreads.

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"“Studies on HIV replication in the lab are mostly conducted in simple cell culture experiments in plastic dishes that do not reflect the complex architecture and heterogeneity of tissue.”" - Dr Oliver Fackler at Heidelberg University Hospital

The results of this approach revealed that the tissue structure powers the virus to spread through direct cell-to-cell contact.

Inter-Disciplinary Approach Used to Further Understand HIV

To conduct this experiment, colleagues from different fields like image processing, theoretical biophysics and mathematical modelling collaborated with scientists.

" “This yielded a very complex set of data that was impossible to interpret without the help from scientists of other disciplines.”" - Dr Andrea Imle, who worked on the project during her Ph.D.

The findings also revealed that the 3D environment of the cell actually suppresses infections with a cell-free virus, and yet also enabled direct cell to cell virus transmissions.

The researchers believe that these new findings will pave the way for better HIV treatment.

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