The latent reservoir is the last bastion of HIV’s resistance to a cure. But it is difficult to destroy because it is invisible: the cells in the reservoir harbor virus that is dormant, so they don’t have any viral proteins on their surface that would give them away.
As a result, scientists have struggled to learn what the reservoir looks like in individuals with HIV. And without this knowledge, they harbor little hope of being able to target the reservoir with therapies that could eliminate or reduce it, thus ridding people of HIV infection for good.
To fish out reservoir cells, scientists have to reawaken the virus by activating cells they collect from infected individuals. Once awake, the virus produces proteins that mark the surface of its host cells, which gives researchers a handle to find and study these cells. However, the very process of reactivating the virus leads to