This demonstration is part of a series of activities and demonstrations focusing on various aspects of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) life cycle. HIV infects and destroys one specific class of cells of the immune system called helper T cells, which work by orchestrating and activating other immune cells. This demonstration models how HIV initiates infection by binding to two receptors on the surface of the helper T cell: in this case, the CD4 receptor and the co-receptor CCR5. The demonstration uses plastic food boxes, spools, and pipe cleaners.
This activity was designed to be completed in 10 minutes of classroom time, but educators will need to set aside at least 30 minutes for preparation the first time the activity is done. It is appropriate for all levels of high school biology and introductory college biology.