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Research Objectives


A series of patient studies will help us answer questions about HIV infection that have not been answered before:
  • Why does HIV continue to replicate in people taking anti-HIV drugs?
  • Does HIV replication in the gut cause problems with the control of other infections?
  • Is vaginal GML safe and well tolerated when used by healthy women for 14 weeks?
  • Where in the body does HIV replicate?

To answer these questions, we will examine samples of blood, lymph node tissue, and tissue from the gut that will be collected in seven clinical trials (patient studies) at the University of Minnesota.

The questions we want to answer are at the leading edge of HIV research. Our program of research is unique because we are focused on more than just measuring viral load in the blood. We want to know what the virus is doing in the lymph node and gut. These are the sites where most infection happens.

We believe blood samples alone will not show us what we need to know about why HIV keeps replicating in what we call a “viral reservoir” in spite of antiretroviral treatment. We believe these reservoirs are contained in the tissues of a person’s lymph node and gut. We have assembled a team of researchers with the background and experience required to examine and analyze the tissue samples collected in our patient studies.

The results of these studies will lead to further research into how HIV treatment can be more effective and promote more complete healing of the immune system.

Treatment interruption study and tissue drug levels study: Why does HIV continue to replicate in people taking anti-HIV drugs?

In this study of HIV-positive patients, we will collect samples of blood, lymph node tissue, and gut tissue; precisely measure the level of HIV in those samples throughout the study; and compare the genetic traits of the HIV in the samples to find out:

  • Does HIV keeps replicating in lymph nodes and colon tissues even when you are taking medication and the virus can’t be measured in blood?
  • When a person on HIV drugs has the occasional positive viral load test—where is that virus made? We believe it comes from the lymph node & gut and this occurs more often than would be expected by doing routine blood tests.
  • What are the levels of drug in the cells of the lymph node and gut and how do they compare to drug levels in the blood?
  • Are lymph nodes and colon sites of “persistent” replication of the HIV virus when taking anti-HIV medications?

Learn about the patient studies for HIV-positive patients who have been taking anti-HIV medication and for patients who have not taken anti-HIV medication, but want to start.

A lymph node is significantly damaged by HIV
A lymph node is significantly damaged by HIV replication.
A lymph node is severely damaged by HIV
A lymph node is severely damaged by HIV replication.

Problems with immune recovery: Does HIV replication in the gut cause problems with the control of other infections?


In this study, we will compare how well herpes is controlled in patients who are HIV-positive versus patients who are not infected with HIV. We want to know if persistent replication of HIV causes more frequent reactivation of herpes simplex in the gut.

Learn about the patient studies for HIV-positive patients and for HIV-negative patients.

CD4+ T cells in the gut
CD4+ T cells in the gut.
Severe Infection?
Severe infection in the gut.

HIV Prevention: Is vaginal GML safe and well tolerated when used by healthy women for 14 weeks?

The majority of women in the world who have HIV/AIDS were infected through sexual intercourse. These infections may have been prevented if women had a way to protect themselves from getting HIV through sexual encounters. Glycerol Monolaurate (GML) is an FDA approved compound found in many products including cosmetics, soaps, ice cream, and candy. There is evidence that GML may block HIV from getting into the body when used in the vagina, thus preventing disease. However, before GML can be tested in a large population to see if it protects from HIV, we must first make sure it is safe when used in the vagina for multiple consecutive weeks.

  • Is GML gel safe when used in the vagina for 14 weeks?
  • Is GML use acceptable to healthy women?
  • Would women be willing to use this product to prevent sexually transmitted infections such as HIV?

Learn about the patient study.