HIV infection can prematurely age their patients in an average of five years; a new study has found.
Thanks to combination antiretroviral therapy, many people with HIV can expect to live decades after infection. However, doctors have found that these patients often show signs of premature aging, the researchers said. The new study has applied a high precision biomarker to measure the extent to which HIV infection among people aged biologically – an average of nearly five years.
“Medical problems in treating people with HIV have changed,” said Howard Fox, a professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Centre in the US .. “We’re not so concerned about the infections that come from immunocompromised. Now we care-related aging, such as cardiovascular disease, neurocognitive impairment, and liver problems diseases, “said Fox.
The tool used in the new study analyzes the epigenetic changes in cells of people. Epigenetic changes affect DNA, but not the DNA sequence. Once produced, which are transmitted from one cell generation to the next, that influence how genes are expressed. The particular epigenetic change as a biomarker used in this research was methylation, the process by which small chemical groups are attached to DNA. DNA methylation can affect how genes are translated into proteins.
“What we have seen in previous studies is that as we age, methylation throughout the genome changes,” said Trey Ideker, a professor at the University of California, San Diego. He added, “Some people call it entropy or genetic drift. Although we are not sure of the exact mechanism by which these epigenetic changes lead to the symptoms of aging, is a trend that can measure within the cells of people.”
The 137 patients included in the analysis were enrolled in a long-term study designed to monitor people infected with HIV, who are being treated with combination antiretroviral therapy.
The subjects who were chosen did not have other health conditions that might skew the results. 44 control subjects HIV-negative were also included in the initial analysis. An independent group of 48 subjects, both HIV positive and negative, was used to confirm the findings.
Moreover, the discovery that HIV infection led to an average increase in the biological aging of 4.9 years, researchers such change correlates with a higher risk of mortality of 19%.
“We set out to examine the effects of HIV infection on methylation, and was surprised that we found such a high impact aging,” Ideker said. “Another thing that was surprising was that there were no differences between methylation patterns in people who were newly infected (less than five years) and those with chronic infection (over 12 years),” said Fox.
The study was published in the journal Molecular Cell.