The Damage Done from the Get-Go

Scientists provide insight into how body is damaged in early stages of HIV

(RxWiki News) Using mice, researchers have modeled how the human body reacts to the early stages of HIV infection. The study also reveals how the disease is related to nerve cell damage.

Researchers from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Rochester Medical Center conducted a study on mice to increase understanding of how HIV infection affects the human body. Their study showed that, in its early stages, HIV infection causes inflammatory responses, changes in brain cells, and damage to neurons.

This study is the first to identify neuronal loss during the early stages of HIV infection.

According to Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the damage caused by HIV found in this study will help researchers move forward in their understanding of how HIV impacts important brain functions. Understanding the affects of HIV in its early stages, she continues, could lead to better therapies to treat the infection in those initial stages.

HIV is a sexually transmitted disease that can also be spread through contact with infected blood and from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. The disease is commonly spread amongst drug-users who share needles.

HIV can evolve into AIDS, sometimes rapidly and sometimes after years of the infection's toll on the immune system.

The CDC estimates that more than 1.1 million people in the United States were living with HIV infection at the end of 2006. About 21 percent of those people go undiagnosed.

The study - which was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Center for Research Resources - is published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

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Review Date: 
March 2, 2011