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The Department of Microbiology and Immunology is pleased to announce that Jenna Honeycutt, PhD, is the 2016 recipient of the G. Philip Manire Graduate Student Excellence in Research Award. For her dissertation work in J. Victor Garcia‘s lab, Jenna clarified the human cell types infected by HIV. HIV causes AIDS by targeting cells of the host immune system, particularly T-cells. A challenge for the study of HIV infection is that the virus only infects human cells. Jenna constructed two new types of “humanized” mice and then assessed the ability of HIV to infect the animals. Mice containing only human T-cells could be infected with HIV, which killed many of the T-cells and established a latent infection in others. As in humans, treating the mice with anti-HIV drugs halted growth of active virus, but did not clear the latent infection. The establishment of a stable, long term HIV infection in mice makes these animals valuable tools for research into possible HIV cures, which seek to activate dormant HIV so it too can be eradicated by drug treatment. Jenna’s second type of mouse contained only human myeloid-derived immune cells (no T-cells). She found that HIV could successfully infect macrophages, thus disproving a competing hypothesis that HIV is only found in macrophages that engulf HIV-infected T-cells. Knowing that HIV can hide in macrophages is again relevant to developing strategies to cure HIV. Jenna’s most recent paper has received a lot of attention (see, including a recent interview with MD Magazine (see picture below).