Podcast: How Does HIV Remain Dormant in Cells?

HIV is a formidable pathogen that targets the immune system, particularly CD4 cells, and weakens the body’s defense against infections. While CD4 cells have been the primary focus of HIV research, a team at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine is investigating a new victim — myeloid cells — which they believe may be the key to achieving a functional cure for HIV.

Dr. Mario Stevenson speaking at lectern
Mario Stevenson, Ph.D.

In Part Two of the “Inside U Miami Medicine” episode exploring the latest HIV research, Mario Stevenson, Ph.D., director of the HIV/AIDS and Emerging Infectious Diseases Institute, shares why myeloid cells contribute to a long-lived HIV reservoir.

“They hide out in places the drugs might not reach very effectively, and they have characteristics that favor and help the virus to persist and avoid immune detection,” said Dr. Stevenson. “They also don’t suffer deleterious effects from being infected.”

Dr. Stevenson also spoke with Henri R. Ford, M.D., M.H.A., dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School, about a study that is evaluating the impact of methamphetamine on HIV.

Dr. Mario Stevenson speaking with Dean Henri R. Ford, both seated

“We suspect that meth directly impacts the reservoirs of HIV,” said Dr. Stevenson. “It can epigenetically modify the host cell repertoire, and that could be the trigger for HIV activation. If the virus is more awake, it might be more visible to the immune system and antiretroviral agents.”

When HIV infects the brain, it starts to produce toxins that kill neurons (one of telltale signs of HIV is dementia). Could meth use affect myeloid cells and drive HIV activity even higher, making the disease more severe and causing other issues? Or, conversely, could it stimulate the body’s immune system to attack the virus and reduce the effects of HIV?

Tune in to hear more about this fascinating research. Click here to listen on Apple podcasts or search “Inside U Miami Medicine” on any podcast platform.

Tags: Dr. Mario Stevenson, HIV research, Inside U Miami Medicine podcast