Immunometabolism in HIV and Inflammatory Diseases Group

Head: Dr Clovis Palmer

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Overview

HIV infection results in immune system dysfunction and inflammation even when viral replication is fully suppressed on antiretroviral therapy. HIV remains dormant in the body in immune cells called the ‘reservoir’. This means people with HIV need to take lifelong medication to suppress the virus.

Even with effective treatment, people with HIV may have an increased risk of age-associated conditions such as cardiovascular disease and frailty compared with uninfected individuals. We need new and even more effective ways of treating HIV – including reversing HIV-associated inflammation and eradicating the HIV reservoir - so that those living with HIV can live a longer and healthier life.

One of the aims of our work is to discover and test new drug targets, including therapies aimed at eradicating the HIV reservoir.

There is much recent interest in the emerging field of “immunometabolism”. This investigates the interplay between viral infections, immune function and metabolism, including the way in which immune cells use glucose (a simple sugar) to provide them with energy.

Our laboratory is working to understand the steps by which immune cells use glucose for energy, function and survival.

By improving our understanding of immunometabolism, HIV-associated ageing and inflammation, and the HIV reservoir, the overarching aim of our group is to develop interventions to decay the HIV reservoir, improve immune function, and prevent the early onset of age-associated conditions in people living with HIV.

Immune cells break down glucose through a series of steps to extract energy to boost their survival and functions. Palmer et al. International Journal of Immunology, 2015.

HIV infection even during antiretroviral therapy, increases inflammation, ages the immune system, and increases the risk of age-related conditions. Palmer et al, Journal of Immunology Research, 2014.

Objectives

  • To understand how the HIV reservoirs survive and develop strategies to destroy them
  • To understand how immune cells (CD4 T cells) become dysfunctional during HIV infection
  • To develop new immune-metabolic assays and tests to understand the role of inflammation in HIV-associated diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia and arthritis
  • To understand the pathophysiology of Frailty in HIV infected and uninfected persons
  • Delivery of anti-inflammatory drugs using Nanotechnology

Highlights

  • Discovered for the first time that HIV infection causes dysfunctional glucose metabolism in immune cells from HIV infected individuals
  • Identified that over-reactive glucose metabolism in CD4 T cells was linked to excessive immune activation and low CD4 T cell count in HIV infected persons
  • Identified a link between over-reactive glucose metabolism on monocytes and high inflammation in HIV infected individuals
  • Developed unique assays to measure metabolic dysfunction in immune cells in humans
  • Identified novel classes of anti-HIV and anti-inflammatory drugs
  • The Immunometabolic Laboratory has trained and transferred technologies to many international laboratories. We currently have active collaborations in Australia, Argentina, Mexico, USA, Jamaica, and Malaysia
  • Video: A theory for HIV Infection

Current funding:

  • National Institute of Health (NIH)
  • International AIDS Society
  • The Australian Centre for HIV and Hepatitis Virology Research (ACH2)
  • Merck Sharp & Dohme (unrestricted grant)

Media contributions:

Dr Palmer has contributed significantly to media interviews to radio, newspapers and professional health organizations. He has provided expert review and commentary on the role of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in HIV prevention for the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations. He is a special HIV news correspondent for Living Positive Victoria.

He is the resident HIV expert and co-host of Is Nothing Sacred on JOY 94.9 FM translating scientific discovery into laymans language. His work has been featured in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald: Ideas that could change your life, where he outlined the Laboratory’s new approach for a functional HIV cure.

Community supporters:
Living Positive Victoria

Projects

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Contact Details

Doctor Clovis Palmer

Head, Palmer Laboratory, Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Monash University, Department of Infectious Diseases

Telephone

+61385062389

Email

clovis.palmer@burnet.edu.au