HIV accelerates body’s aging soon after initial infection

pharmafile | July 1, 2022 | News story | Medical Communications  

Scientists have discovered that accelerated aging with HIV begins at the time of initial HIV infection. Researchers found that HIV has an “early and substantial” impact on aging in infected people, with infection potentially cutting off an individual’s life span by around five years, relative to an uninfected person.

Researchers in the journal iScience found that the biological changes associated with normal aging were accelerating within only two or three years of infection with HIV.

“Our work demonstrates that even in the early months and years of living with HIV, the virus has already set into motion an accelerated aging process at the DNA level,” said Elizabeth Crabb Breen, lead author, professor emerita at UCLA’s Cousins Centre for Psychoneuroimmunology and of psychiatry and biobehavioural sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “This emphasizes the critical importance of early HIV diagnosis and an awareness of aging-related problems, as well as the value of preventing HIV infection in the first place.”

“These longitudinal observations clearly demonstrate an early and substantial impact of HIV infection on the epigenetic aging process, and suggest a role for HIV itself in the earlier onset of clinical aging,” scientists wrote in the study, adding that

Scientists assessed stored blood samples from 102 male participants in the study, collected six months or less before they became infected with HIV, and again two to three years after infection. They compared these results with those of matching samples from 102 non-infected men, of the same age, taken over the same period.

“Our access to rare, well-characterised samples allowed us to design this study in a way that leaves little doubt about the role of HIV in eliciting biological signatures of early aging,” Beth Jamieson, another author of the study, said.­­

There are some limitations to the study, which included only men, and was predominantly white. Additionally, there is still no consensus on what constitutes normal aging, or how to define it.

“Our long-term goal is to determine whether we can use any of these signatures to predict whether an individual is at increased risk for specific aging-related disease outcomes, thus exposing new targets for intervention therapeutics,” Dr Beth Jamieson, author of the study, explained.


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