Next-Generation Human Cerebral Organoids as Powerful Tools To Advance NeuroHIV Research

mBio. 2021 Aug 31;12(4):e0068021. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00680-21. Epub 2021 Jul 13.


Long-term effective use of antiretroviral therapy (ART) among people with HIV (PWH) has significantly reduced the burden of disease, yet a cure for HIV has not been universally achieved, likely due to the persistence of an HIV reservoir. The central nervous system (CNS) is an understudied HIV sanctuary. Importantly, due to viral persistence in the brain, cognitive disturbances persist to various degrees at high rates in PWH despite suppressive ART. Given the complexity and accessibility of the CNS compartment and that it is a physiologically and anatomically unique immune site, human studies to reveal molecular mechanisms of viral entry, reservoir establishment, and the cellular and structural interactions leading to viral persistence and brain injury to advance a cure and either prevent or limit cognitive impairments in PWH remain challenging. Recent advances in human brain organoids show that they can mimic the intercellular dynamics of the human brain and may recapitulate many of the events involved in HIV infection of the brain (neuroHIV). Human brain organoids can be produced, spontaneously or with addition of growth factors and at immature or mature states, and have become stronger models to study neurovirulent viral infections of the CNS. While organoids provide opportunities to study neuroHIV, obstacles such as the need to incorporate microglia need to be overcome to fully utilize this model. Here, we review the current achievements in brain organoid biology and their relevance to neuroHIV research efforts.

Keywords: HIV; HIV cure; HIV reservoirs; cerebral organoids; cure; neuropathology; reservoirs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / virology*
  • HIV Infections / virology
  • HIV-1 / pathogenicity*
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Mice
  • Organoids / virology*
  • Research