October/November #183 : Detecting the Missing Link Between HIV and Brain Drain - by Laura Whitehorn

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The Show Must Go On

A Capital Affair

From the Editor

Trench Warfare

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Letters- October/November 2012

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What You Need to Know

Jamar Rogers's Voice Will Go On

Olympic Winner Tells the World He's Positive

Pesky Email Spam Offers Clues for Eradicating HIV

Infant Circumcision Grows to Global Debate

Why Folks With HIV Can Be Excellent Transplant Recipients

We Hear You

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Taking Risks to Help Others

What Matters to You

Finding an HIV Vaccine

Treatment News

Detecting the Missing Link Between HIV and Brain Drain

Point of Reentry: Getting Prisoners HIV Care

New Booster in Town: Cobicistat

Bronx Cheer: An HIV Testing Program Shows Progress

The "War on Drugs" Spreads HIV

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October / November 2012

Detecting the Missing Link Between HIV and Brain Drain

by Laura Whitehorn

Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center have released data that HIV interferes with a protein that supports brain function. The news provides an important piece to the puzzle of why, even when the virus is successfully suppressed by HIV meds, some positive people still suffer a loss of cognitive function.

“This finding is extremely important,” says Georgetown’s Italo Mocchetti, PhD, “because it suggests a new avenue to understand, and treat, a fairly widespread cause of dementia.” The researchers, led by Mocchetti, found that gp120, an HIV fragment, disrupts the maturing of a protein called BDNF that protects neurons in the brain. In its immature state, the protein is toxic, possibly causing psychological and cognitive problems such as depression and loss of memory and motor function.

For HIV-positive people concerned about brain health, the research holds hope: Mocchetti believes certain drugs—made of molecules small enough to penetrate the blood-brain barrier—might block immature BDNF from doing its damage. The theory will be tested in mice, with the first stage expected to take about two years. “Then [if the concept proves viable],” Mocchetti adds, “we will use these mice to test small molecules.”

Search: Georgetown University Medical Center, brain function, Italo Mocchetti, dementia, BDNF

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