Wim Trypsteen: The PhD project of Wim started in 2012 and is centered around long non-coding RNA discovery in HIV infection. This class of molecules form interesting targets because they have broad cellular functions and are linked to several human diseases. Therefore, this research can lead to new understandings of the HIV life cycle and the discovery of therapeutic targets.
Sofie Rutsaert: In the summer of 2014, Sofie joined the HCRC group. In her PhD, she focuses on the reminiscent virus present in patients, the viral reservoir. This reservoir is the cause of viral rebound when therapy is stopped. Therefore it is important to define the characteristics and size of this reservoir. On one hand she is optimizing the quantification of a marker of the reservoir, HIV DNA, in the blood cells, and on the other hand she aims to elucidate the clinical relevance of this marker.
Marie-Angélique De Scheerder: Marie-Angélique started her PhD at the HCRC in September 2014, combining her PhD with a medical specialization in General Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases. This combination of Research and clinical care gave her the opportunity to start on a very interesting HIV reservoir study, where we look at the virus in different anatomic compartments in patients under long term cART. This will give us the possibility to get a better insight in which of these compartments are relevant for viral rebound at treatment interruption.
Clarissa Van Hecke: Clarissa started her PhD in September 2014. In this PhD project, she investigates the role of long non-coding RNAs in HIV replication. Long non-coding RNAs are a recently discovered class of molecules so the knowledge about their role in cells and diseases is still limited. This research can contribute to the further characterization of long non-coding RNAs and their specific functions, especially in HIV replication.
Sam Kint: In October 2015, Sam started his PhD project as a collaboration between the HCRC and BIOBIX (department of Mathematical Modelling, Statistics and Bioinformatics, faculty of bio-science engineering). He focusses on the role of the epigenetic marker DNA methylation on the establishment, maintenance and stability of the latency of the HIV-1 reservoir.
Basiel Cole: Basiel joined the HCRC as a PhD student in the summer of 2016, after completing his master thesis about the use of CRISPR/dCas9 for the reactivation of latent HIV. During his PhD project, he will investigate the role of clonal expansion of latently infected cells in the maintenance of the viral reservoir, in order to aid HIV-1 cure research. For this, Basiel will optimize an innovative assay, the Integration Site Loop Amplification (ISLA), to characterize viral integration sites in a number of patient samples.
Jon Huyghe: After writing a research project in collaboration with the HCRC in early 2016, Jon joined the research group in summer 2016. The main focus of his PhD project is the reduction of the latent HIV reservoir in patients. By reducing and finally fully eliminating this reservoir, a permanent cure for HIV can be achieved. In this project Jon is mainly trying the establish whether CAR T cell technology can be used to eliminate HIV infected cells after reactivation of the virus. CAR T cells are mainly studied for applications in cancer therapy and results are very promising. By transferring this technology to an HIV context, we aim to reduce and permanently eliminate the viral reservoir in patients.