HIV is associated with an effective five years of aging to cells. Publishing their findings in Molecular Cell, researchers conducted a genetic analysis of cells from 137 HIV-positive members of the CHARTER study who did not have hepatitis C virus (HCV) or diabetes and who adhered well to treatment and compared them with cells from 44 HIV-negative controls. They confirmed their findings with a group of 48 HIV-negative and HIV-positive individuals.

The researchers looked at epigenic changes in cells. These changes alter the structure but not the sequence of DNA and influence how genes are expressed. More specifically, they looked at an epigenic change called methylation, which is the means by which small chemical groups are attached to DNA. Methylization of DNA can affect how genes are translated into proteins.

The investigators concluded that HIV led to an average cellular aging of 4.9 years. This shift is associated with a 19 percent increased risk of death.

To read the study abstract, click here.