Chronic Exposure to cART Predispose Older HIV Infected Individuals to CNS Injury

Dates: 4/15/2013 - 3/31/2019


Role: James M McMahon, PhD : Co-Investigator
Principal Investigator: Giovanni Schifitto

Combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) has changed the natural history of HIV infection, a remarkable achievement that allows those individuals that can tolerate and are compliant with the regimen a survival rate that is getting closer to those that are not infected. However, despite this great success, cART has not eliminated HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND). Because HAND is progressive even in those taking cART, it has been suggested that the residual viral replication may be sufficient to maintain an inflammatory response that leads to neuronal injury. Thus better CNS penetrating agents should be useful. However, several reports suggest that cART itself may be neurotoxic and at least in part responsible for the persistence and progression of cognitive impairment. Adding to this scenario is the increased survival of HIV infected individuals which it means that the HIV infected population is getting older and the interaction cART-aging may be synergistic in terms of CNS injury. Defining the potential central nervous system (CNS) toxicity associated with cART exposure and its interaction with aging, will create the bases for changing current practices such as adjusting cART doses, especially in the elderly who may be more vulnerable to cART effect and investigating the best combinations of ART with least CNS toxicity. Findings from this research would also provide impetus to develop new drugs with a better CNS profile. Therefore, the primary aim of this proposal is to determine whether chronic exposure to cART alters brain structure and function and whether this differs in young versus older HIV infected individuals.