From Medical Xpress:

Oligodendrocytes (in green) failed to mature when treated with an antiretroviral drug (right panel).

Antiretroviral therapies, or ART, have enabled people with HIV and AIDS to live much longer lives, transforming what was considered a death sentence into a chronic condition. Yet concerns for these patients remain. Up to half of people with HIV on these drug regimens have some sort of cognitive impairment, such as memory loss or problems with executive functioning, despite the virus being almost undetectable in their bodies.

In a new study, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia teamed up to investigate the underlying reasons for these impairments. They found that commonly used antiretroviral medications disrupted the function of oligodendrocytes, crucial brain cells that manufacture myelin, the fatty material that serves to insulate neurons, helping them transmit signals in the brain fast and efficiently.

This disruption, the researchers said, may be responsible for some of the cognitive problems that HIV patients experience, and point to a need for rethinking how HIV drugs are designed and prescribed, particularly for children on ART, in whom myelin is still forming at high rates.

“Pharmaceutical companies have done an amazing job developing drugs to make HIV patients live longer, but we’re not done,” said Kelly L. Jordan-Sciutto, professor and chair of Penn’s School of Dental Medicine’s Department of Pathology, who co-led the research with Judith B. Grinspan, a research scientist at CHOP and a professor of neurology at Penn’s Perelman School of…

Continue Reading