HIV-host interaction


Research focus

More than 34 million people worldwide are currently infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). These individuals will remain persistently infected, even if optimally treated with anti-HIV drugs. Life-long chronic infection is sustained by the existence of viral reservoirs, i.e. pools of long-lived cells that harbor functional HIV genomes. These cells are protected from virus-induced cell death by suppressing HIV replication, but may increase/reactivated virus production in response to extracellular stimuli. Virus reservoirs reside in the immune system and in different organs, including the brain. Persistence of HIV in the brain may not only increase the overall virus burden but also promotes neurodegeneration (e.g. HIV-1 associated dementia HAD).  Understanding the mechanisms of HIV suppression or activation in brain reservoirs is important for therapeutic targeting of HIV reservoir cells.
Current anti-HIV therapies can minimize HIV replication and thus prevent AIDS. However, various problems are associated with anti-HIV drug therapies including high virus variability, rapid emergence of resistant viruses, adverse drug effects and and the need for cost-effective drugs. Therefore there is a continuous need to identify new promising anti-HIV drug candidates for the development of new effective therapies.
Our research aims to elucidate cellular mechanisms of HIV control and activation and to promote the development of new antiretroviral drugs.

Head of the Group

Ruth Brack-Werner (Prof. Dr. rer nat.) is a biologist with a PhD in biochemistry and habilitation in Genetics. She is a member of the Faculty of Biology at the Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich and lectures, gives courses and supervises students at undergraduate and graduate levels in Molecular Virology. She was principal supervisor of 13 PhD students (completed) and 2 are ongoing.  She is a member of the board of directors of the International Society for Neurovirology. She reviews for various granting agencies (e.g. Finnish Academy of Sciences, Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung) and scientific journals (e.g. AIDS, Retrovirology, PlosOne).  Her major research interests are human viruses and their interactions with host cells.