Achievements & Awards

Key Achievements

  1. Lymphoid tissues serve as home to more than 98% of the body’s CD4 T cells and form the primary sites of HIV replication and spread. Our study and assays are performed with Human Lymphoid Aggregate Culture (HLAC) system, which is built on these tissues. This system provides a unique experimental platform that closely replicates the conditions encountered by HIV in vivo, and allows us to explore the relevant physiological consequences of HIV infection and pathogenesis.
  2. Despite vigorous research over the last 30 years, the precise mechanism underlying CD4 T-cell death in AIDS has remained poorly understood. We found that CD4 T cells are not dying because of a toxic action of products encoded by HIV. Rather, these CD4 T cells are dying as a consequence of a powerful defense response launched against the virus before it can make copies of itself. Our studies show that HIV enters the target CD4 T cells and begins reverse transcription. However, during this process, incomplete viral DNA intermediates that accumulate in the cytoplasm are sensed and trigger innate antiviral suicidal response in attempt to eliminate the viral spread.
  3. A second surprise was our discovery that the mechanism of CD4 T-cell death is not “silent”. Instead, these infected cells die a fiery death known as pyroptosis, causing significant inflammation as they erupt their cellular contents and release chemical signals like IL-1b, which recruit healthy CD4 T cells to the site of infection. These events establish a vicious cycle, where dying CD4 T cells release inflammatory signals that attract more cells to die.

 
Education
Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
Faculty of Life Science
B.Sc. in Biology
The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.
Department of Molecular Genetic
M.Sc. in Molecular Genetics
The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.
Department of Molecular Genetics
Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics and Virology

Awards

  1. The Dorothy and Maurice Gordon Scholarship Award, The Weizmann Institute of Science
  2. The Universitywide AIDS Research Program (UARP) fellowship award. University of California, San Francisco
  3. The 2011 Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology Award for Scientific Excellence
  4. The Robert John Sabo Trust Award for research into the causes and treatment of AIDS and Cancer (2012)
  5. Young Investigator Award, 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) (2012)
  6. NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award (R21) (2012)