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Front Microbiol. 2020 Mar 4;11:297. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2020.00297. eCollection 2020.

Single-Cell Technologies Applied to HIV-1 Research: Reaching Maturity.

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Research Centre of the Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CRCHUM), Montreal, QC, Canada.
Department of Microbiology, Infectiology and Immunology, Université de Montréal, Montreal, QC, Canada.
Department of Medicine, Université de Montréal, Montreal, QC, Canada.
Consortium for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Development (Scripps CHAVD), La Jolla, CA, United States.


The need for definitive answers probably explains our natural tendency to seek simplicity. The reductionist "bulk" approach, in which a mean behavior is attributed to a heterogeneous cell population, fulfills this need by considerably helping the conceptualization of complex biological processes. However, the limits of this methodology are becoming increasingly clear as models seek to explain biological events occurring in vivo, where heterogeneity is the rule. Research in the HIV-1 field is no exception: the challenges encountered in the development of preventive and curative anti-HIV-1 strategies may well originate in part from inadequate assumptions built on bulk technologies, highlighting the need for new perspectives. The emergence of diverse single-cell technologies set the stage for potential breakthrough discoveries, as heterogeneous processes can now be investigated with an unprecedented depth in topics as diverse as HIV-1 tropism, dynamics of the replication cycle, latency, viral reservoirs and immune control. In this review, we summarize recent advances in the HIV-1 field made possible by single-cell technologies, and contextualize their importance.


HIV-1; cure; fluorescence in situ DNA and RNA hybridization; mass cytometry (CyTOF); pathogenesis; single-cell omics; single-cell technologies; vaccine

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