Researchers identify key mechanisms underlying HIV-associated cognitive disorders

Published: February 3, 2015

Medical Xpress
Original Article:

While antiretroviral therapies have significantly improved and extended the lives of many HIV patients, another insidious and little discussed threat looms for aging sufferers – HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND). The disorders, which strike more often in HIV patients over age 50, can result in cognitive impairment, mild to severe, making everyday tasks a challenge.

But new findings, published today by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, open the door to the development of new therapies to block or decrease cognitive decline due to HAND, estimated to affect 10 to 50 percent of aging HIV sufferers to some degree.

The study is published in the Feb. 4 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. Eliezer Masliah, MD, a professor of neurosciences and pathology, is senior author; Jerel Adam Fields, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in Masliah’s lab, is first author.
"Most people know HIV affects the immune system’s ability to fight disease, but they may not be aware that HIV gets into the brain and can damage brain cells," said Masliah, an investigator with the HIV Neurobehaviorial Research Center at UC San Diego.

There are several types of HAND, the most common being Mild Neurocognitive Disorder (MND). "Most of the cases we see are mild to moderate," said Masliah. But even mild cognitive problems can interfere with everyday functioning and reduce quality of life, he added, noting that sufferers may have difficulty with daily activities like balancing a checkbook or driving directions.

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