Scientists have discovered a protein on T cells that are infected with HIV, but lie dormant during latency. The protein is CD32a, and it is encoded on the surface of the T cells. Mosef Benikrane of University of Montpellier in France and his team discovered these cells by adding fluorescent tagged HIV to resting T cells and looked for different gene expression patterns between the infected T cells and the non-infected T cells. The CD32a protein was not found on non-infected T cells. This protein is also expressed on infected T cells that actively replicate HIV, but at much lower levels. They confirmed the results by performing a direct ELISA that determined the resting T cells that were infected with HIV expressed this protein.
Researchers at UCSF and US national Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease in Bethesda, Maryland will conduct studies to determine if this protein can be a reliable marker. They will test all the cells and tissues that HIV infects and determine if the CD32a protein is expressed in quiescent infected cells.
Scientists are hopeful that this discovery can lead to a cure, but 2 decades of failed discovery have left scientists cautious. If this protein is a reliable marker for HIV reservoirs, then scientists can develop drugs that target these cells in order to obliterate the reservoir and discover a cure for HIV after all.
Read more here: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/hidden-hiv-reservoirs-exposed-by-telltale-protein/