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Super-resolution quantitative imaging of HIV fusion and its neutralisation by antibodies

Project description

Seeing is believing: imaging of HIV binding with antibodies

Despite its widespread use in cell biology, conventional optical microscopy has a limited resolution of around 250 nm. As a result, its applicability to the study of viruses such as HIV, with a size of 120 nm, is limited. The EU-funded FILM-HIV project proposes to employ super-resolution fluorescence microscopy techniques to study viral cell entry and the mode of action of potent anti-HIV antibodies known to block this process. Given that HIV is one of the most lethal diseases of our times, causing around one million deaths globally every year, delineating its infection cycle is critical for the identification of novel therapeutic targets.


Seeing is believing. Under that premise, optical microscopy has become one of the most prominent observation technologies in life sciences. However, the spatial resolution of conventional optical microscopes is limited to around 250 nm. This raises the question on how we can apply this technique to the study the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a 120 nm large particle that is responsible for 1 million deaths every year. It seemed impossible, since the spatial resolution limit is caused by the diffraction of light and therefore a fundamental physical barrier. However, the development of super-resolution (sub-diffraction) fluorescence microscopy techniques, an emerging field awarded with the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, is providing new tools that are awakening optical microscopy-based virus research.

My proposed project FILM-HIV (Fluorescence Imaging & Live Microscopy of HIV) aims to apply state-of-the-art advanced super-resolution microscopy techniques to monitor and study (i) viral cell entry, and (ii) the action mechanism of potent anti-HIV antibodies that are able to block this process. I, Pablo Carravilla, have chosen the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology in Jena, Germany, as my host institution to develop my project under the supervision of the renowned scientist Prof. Christian Eggeling, where I will be trained in highly advanced super-resolution microscopy and plasma membrane organization studies. As part of my research I will carry out a secondment at one of the best university biomedical institutions in Europe - the Medical Sciences Division of the University of Oxford. The acquired skills in combination with my knowledge on HIV, viral membranes and antibodies, will allow for a cutting-edge study of a process that is critical to the infection cycle of HIV, the causative agent of the most lethal pandemic of our times: the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.


Net EU contribution
€ 162 806,40
Albert einstein strasse 9
07745 Jena

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Thüringen Thüringen Jena, Kreisfreie Stadt
Activity type
Research Organisations
Other funding
€ 0,00