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Finding Genius Podcast

May 28, 2020

Dr. Bility works with humanized mouse models to investigate infectious viruses like HIV.

He explains his microbiology work by sharing with listeners

  • The inspirational background for recapitulating human disease study with a new paradigm,
  • How these humanized mouse models with human organ systems and immune systems are developed, and
  • Their recent ability to control HIV in these mouse models that may enable vaccine development.

Moses T. Bility, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology at the School of Public Health and the University of Pittsburgh.

In this conversation he explains how Stephen Hawking's theory of model-dependent realism inspired his approach to studying infectious viruses. In an effort to rethink the paradigm that can explain and predict human disease in a more effective way, he works with rodent models that are humanized. He explains the technique for introducing human organ systems in mice, including the liver, hypothalamus, kidney capsule, skin, and the whole immune system.

This realigns how a microbiology lab can analyze infectious viruses, from HIV to Covid-19. Dr. Bility describes his current investigation, namely in HIV interaction with macrophages and iron. Macrophages are multifunctional cells that play a role in maintaining tissue integrity and initiating an immune response.

He describes how they developed a humanized mouse model with a human spleen and studied the model to see what allows the HIV virus to persist and how they could affect the virus. They had an exciting outcome, namely that they were able to control HIV in their mouse model. They now will do some machine learning and other studies to see how they can design a vaccine around their findings in terms of controlling the virus. 

For more, see his faculty page at