HIV in­fec­tion as­so­ci­ated with pre­ma­ture ag­ing

Pakistan Observer - - KARACHI CITY -

WHILE com­bi­na­tion an­tiretro­vi­ral ther­apy can en­able peo­ple with HIV to en­joy many more years of life than they might pre­vi­ously have ex­pected, the same pa­tients ap­pear to be prone to los­ing an av­er­age of 5 years of life due to pre­ma­ture ag­ing. The re­sults of the research, which in­volved the use of a highly ac­cu­rate biomarker to mea­sure bi­o­log­i­cal ag­ing, are pub­lished in Molec­u­lar Cell. HIV is a virus that, once ac­quired, never to­tally leaves the body.

The virus at­tacks the im­mune sys­tem, in­creas­ing sus­cep­ti­bil­ity to in­fec­tions and dis­ease, in­clud­ing in­fec­tion-re­lated can­cers. With­out treat­ment, the pa­tient can de­velop AIDS. Al­though there is no cure for HIV, an­tiretro­vi­ral ther­apy (ART), if cor­rectly used, can keep the pa­tient healthy and pro­long the per­son’s life to al­most what it would have been with­out HIV.

Re­searchers from the Univer­sity of Ne­braska in Omaha, and the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia in San Diego, teamed up to find out more about how chronic HIV in­fec­tion af­fects ag­ing. The study in­volved 137 pa­tients with HIV but no other health con­di­tions that could bias the re­sults. Par­tic­i­pants were al­ready en­rolled in a long-term study to mon­i­tor peo­ple with HIV who are re­ceiv­ing com­bi­na­tion an­tiretro­vi­ral ther­apy.

It in­volved a con­trol group of 44 HIV-neg­a­tive in­di­vid­u­als. An in­de­pen­dent group of 48 sub­jects, both HIV pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive, was used to con­firm the find­ings. The team used a new tool to study epi­ge­netic changes in peo­ple’s cells. Epi­ge­netic changes are those that al­ter the DNA but not the DNA se­quence.

Af­ter th­ese changes oc­cur, they are passed down from one gen­er­a­tion of cells to the next, in­flu­enc­ing gene ex­pres­sion. The cur­rent research fo­cused on methy­la­tion as a biomarker to show a spe­cific epi­ge­netic change. Methy­la­tion oc­curs when small chem­i­cal groups at­tach to the DNA, and it can af­fect how genes are trans­lated into pro­teins.

Re­sults sug­gest that HIV in­fec­tion leads to an av­er­age ad­vance in bi­o­log­i­cal ag­ing of 4.9 years, as­so­ci­ated with a 19% in­creased risk of mor­tal­ity. Pre­vi­ous stud­ies have shown that methy­la­tion al­ters across the genome as we age, ex­plains co-author Trey Ideker, a pro­fes­sor of Ge­net­ics in the Depart­ment of Medicine at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia.

This is some­times re­ferred to as en­tropy or ge­netic drift. It re­mains un­clear pre­cisely how th­ese changes give rise to the symp­toms of ag­ing, but it is pos­si­ble to mea­sure the changes within hu­man cells. The au­thors did not ex­pect to see such a strong ag­ing ef­fect. They were also sur­prised to see that there was no dif­fer­ence be­tween the methy­la­tion pat­terns in in­di­vid­u­als who had been in­fected for un­der 5 years and those who had had the in­fec­tion for more than 12 years.

“The med­i­cal is­sues in treat­ing peo­ple with HIV have changed. We’re no longer as wor­ried about in­fec­tions that come from be­ing im­muno­com­pro­mised. Now we worry about dis­eases re­lated to ag­ing, like car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, neu­rocog­ni­tive im­pair­ment and liver prob­lems.” photo

Chair­man Se­nate Mian Raza Rab­bani award­ing de­gree to a stu­dent dur­ing con­vo­ca­tion of Ziadud­din Univer­sity.—PO

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