Scientists Film Spread of HIV for the First Time

A group of researchers has discovered how HIV is transferred from infected cells to healthy ones by capturing the process on film.  It is hoped that this previously unknown method of transfer will help fellow researchers create a vaccine to combat the virus that has caused the deaths of more than 25 million people. 

The discovery was made possible by creating a molecular clone of HIV then inserting a protein into its genetic code which caused the virus to glow green when exposed to blue light.  This gave scientists an opportunity to see the cells on video and capture how the T-cells that are infected with HIV interact with healthy cells.

The film captured how a bridge, called a virological synapse, was connected between two cells as the infected cell came in contact with a healthy one.  The scientists were then able to see how the fluorescent green particles, which represent HIV, move towards the synapse and into the healthy cell.

Before this discovery, it was previously believed that HIV spreads around the body by freely circulating particles, which then attach to a cell before taking over its replication machinery and make multiple copies of the virus itself. 

In 2004, scientists have discovered that HIV transfers from cell to cell through a virological synapse, but it was not understood why this process was very effective in spreading the virus.  This is why previous experiments in creating an HIV vaccine focused on preparing the immune system in recognizing the proteins of HIV and attack them. 

However, the new footage reveals that HIV avoids recognition by direct transfer between cells.  The next step in this experiment intends to discover the events how HIV behaves once it transfers into a newly infected cell.

The research team, which composed of scientists from University of California in Davis, and Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, consider this new-found knowledge as vital in creating new treatments for HIV and AIDS.

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