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Testing the testers

As part of the effort to end HIV in the U.S. by 2030, researchers at the School of Nursing are using mystery-shopper methodology to test the quality of HIV/STI testing for young men who have sex with men (YMSM). “This study’s systematic collection of YMSM’s experiences when seeking HIV testing and prevention services in three large metropolitan areas is an important step toward improving these services for youth,” José A. Bauermeister says.


Vaccine Progress

A novel vaccine developed by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine protected almost all animal subjects exposed to the herpes virus. The immunization led to “mostly sterilizing immunity” from the virus—the strongest type of immunity. This success paves the way for a round of human studies to test the efficacy and safety of the vaccine, says principal investigator Harvey Friedman.


Samuel Weissman of the O’Doherty Lab won second place in this year's Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. The award includes $175,000 in prize money. Dr. O'Doherty met Sam through her son Liam. "Sam [a friend of Liam] started pestering me to volunteer in my lab several years ago. I was admittedly reluctant, but Sam soon proved useful. After learning to code in R, he developed methods to analyze longitudinal HIV sequences." 

Sam is one of three co-first authors on a paper published in Nature Communications which studied the dynamics of the HIV reservoir by longitudinal proviral sequencing [https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-08431-7.]  This work suggests that the HIV reservoir is highly dynamic but this is masked by two opposing forces that contribute to HIV persistence. Both forces are generated by transcription leading to (1) HIV translation and reservoir clearance, or (2) aberrant splicing to downstream human exons that can lead to cell division. Sam plans to save this money for college (or perhaps make a down payment for a Ferrari 488).  This coming year, Sam will work full-time in the O’Doherty lab.


José Bauermeister, Presidential Professor of Nursing and Director of the CFAR Technologies to Reduce HIV Disparities Scientific Working Group, has developed an online tool designed to decrease sexual risk-taking and promote HIV/STI prevention behaviors among young gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (YGBMSM), many of whom frequently meet their partners online.


Dr. Drew Weissman, who has developed nucleoside-modified mRNA-lipid nanoparticle (LNP) as a novel platform for vaccines, showed that the vaccine and LNPs specifically induce high levels of T follicular helper cells (Tfh). Tfh cells form germinal centers (GC) and drive GC B cells to proliferate, somatically mutate, class switch, and form long-term memory, which are critical for HIV vaccine development. In addition to HIV, the vaccine platform has applications to many different viral, bacterial, and parasitic pathogens.


 

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