Research Roundup: Reengineering immune cells may help fight HIV; Pumas expend more energy when living near residential development

Research Roundup: Reengineering immune cells may help fight HIV; Pumas expend more energy when living near residential development

Reengineering immune cells may help fight HIV

Researchers have made several attempts to reengineer T cells, a type of white blood cell, to fight HIV, but none have been successful enough for widespread use. Now, Rachel Leibman, a Ph.D. candidate in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and her colleagues have a new approach that looks promising.

The new technique builds on an earlier approach that made it to clinical trials, where a synthetic protein is added to T cells that allows them to fight a specific pathogen; in this case, HIV. In treatment, T cells extracted from a patient’s blood would be reengineered in the lab to express these HIV-targeting proteins, and then the T cells would be infused back into the patient to fight the virus.

The researchers enhanced these proteins by employing recent advances made to this technology, and tested them in mice infected with HIV. They found that these reengineered T cells could protect other T cells from being attacked and depleted by HIV in mice. The next step for this research is to test this new method in clinical trials.

Research Article:  Leibman RS, Richardson MW, Ellebrecht CT, Maldini CR, Glover JA, Secreto AJ, et al. (2017) Supraphysiologic control over HIV-1 replication mediated by CD8 T cells expressing a re-engineered CD4-based chimeric antigen receptorPLoS Pathog 13(10): e1006613.

Image Credit: NIAID


Pumas expend more energy when living near humans

Pumas photographed in the Santa Cruz mountains

New residential development can affect the behavior of wildlife living in the area, and large carnivores are often the first species to be lost from ecosystems that are transformed. In a recent PLOS ONE study, Yiwei Wang from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and colleagues investigated how development impacts the daily behavior and activity of pumas in the Santa Cruz Mountains of central California.

The researchers collected spatial GPS location data from 22 wild pumas and recorded accelerometer measurements from six of the pumas. They found that pumas living closer to developed areas expended 10.1 percent and 11.6 percent more calories per day, in females and males respectively. This increased activity, particularly at nighttime, meant the females and males living near development needed to annually consume an additional 3.4 and 4.0 deer, respectively.

The authors suggest that these results demonstrate the importance of examining how human-induced behavioral change affects the conservation of species such as pumas.

Research Article: Wang Y, Smith JA, Wilmers CC (2017) Residential development alters behavior, movement, and energetics in an apex predator, the puma. PLoS ONE 12(10): e0184687.

Image Credit: Santa Cruz Puma Project


Tessa is the Journal Media Manager at PLOS. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with degrees in Rhetoric and Music. She can be reached by email at and on Twitter at @tessagregs.

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