HIV infects about 50,000 people in the United States each year. Twenty-three percent of Americans diagnosed with HIV are simultaneously told they have AIDS. And worldwide, 36.9 million people are living with AIDS.
Due to these staggering statistics, Dec. 1 is recognized as World AIDS Day.
Dr. Amy Hulme, assistant professor of biomedical sciences at Missouri State University, studies the inner workings of HIV and how it multiplies. She hopes her work will lead to the development of a vaccine or better drugs to prevent transmission.
“I’m most interested in one tiny step – one that is invisible to the naked eye,” Hulme said.
According to Hulme, when HIV enters a cell, the virus’ coating must be removed to start hardwiring itself to the cell.
“There has been a lot of debate about how and when the uncoating starts,” she said.
Using kidney cells from owl monkeys – who have a natural immunity to HIV replicating – Hulme and her students researched this process.
She established an experimental technique, and they were able to delay the replication of the virus and the uncoating process.
“Blocking this step might mean a medicine or vaccine could be developed to prevent HIV,” she said. “Or at least bring us one step closer.”