April 6, 2010
HIV and Aging: The Potential Role of Inflammation
by Tim Horn
The good news is we’re living longer with HIV. The bad news is we’re aging faster than those not infected HIV. The body’s hyperactive response to the virus, even among those being successfully treated with antiretrovirals, is being eyed as the culprit. Fortunately, researchers already have potential anti-aging and anti-inflammatory treatments in sight.
“Aging” and “inflammation” have become familiar words in the HIV lexicon, up there with terms like “CD4 cells,” “viral load” and “antiretrovirals.” There’s a good reason for this: People living with HIV appear to age faster—as seen in the premature onset of age-associated diseases and immune system deficits—than those not infected with the virus. This is likely because of chronic inflammation, a lingering effect of HIV’s perseverance, even when antiretroviral (ARV) therapy is working to the best of its ability.
The connection between inflammation and aging isn’t simply a quirky phenomenon. It is now a major variable in HIV research, notably in studies exploring the “natural history” of untreated HIV infection and treatment clinical trials. In fact, researchers are taking note of the anti-inflammatory properties of various compounds—agents that can work alone or in tandem with viral load–reducing ARVs to calm the body’s overzealous inflammatory response to HIV and potentially slow the aging process in people living with HIV.
|Steven Deeks, MD
Photo credit: UCSF
After years of research exploring ways to muscle up the immune system’s response to the virus, we’re now learning it might be best to calm it down. To better understand this paradox, AIDSmeds attended the first Immune-Based Therapies Strategy Workshop held in February in San Francisco, hosted by Project Inform and Treatment Action Group. Steven Deeks, MD, professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, was on hand to summarize the latest inflammation and aging research and to provide a glimpse at the potential future of anti-inflammatory treatments to facilitate both long and healthy living with the virus.
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