Understanding Natural Immunity to HIV
Despite 30 years of research, HIV/AIDS remains a global health pandemic. More than 33 million people worldwide are living with HIV, including about 65,000 Canadians. Preventing the spread and finding a cure for HIV/AIDS are global health priorities.
Dr. Mark Brockman, Canada Research Chair in Viral Pathogenesis and Immunity, is exploring how the body can protect itself against HIV infection. He is looking at interactions on the molecular level and studying the immune response to HIV in rare individuals who can spontaneously control infection. Evidence suggests these people naturally suppress HIV through responses by white blood cells called T lymphocytes.
However, it is unclear how a vaccine could stimulate such robust immunity. Brockman is seeking to gather new information about spontaneous HIV control that will assist in the development of new vaccines. He’s doing so by studying how the virus replicates and mutates in response to antiviral T lymphocytes.
Brockman is collaborating with colleagues in regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, where up to 40 per cent of adults now live with HIV. His ties to researchers in South Africa, Lesotho, Zambia, Rwanda and Uganda are bringing critical expertise and training to where it is needed most.
Brockman’s research should improve the understanding of natural immunity to HIV and help identify new targets for vaccine and treatment.