HIV-1 Infection Accelerates Certain Aging Changes by 14 Years, According to UCLA Analysis of Aging-Related Methylation Patterns

People undergoing treatment for HIV-1 have an increased risk for earlier onset of age-related illnesses such as some cancers, renal and kidney disease, frailty, osteoporosis and neurocognitive disease. But is it because of the virus that causes AIDS or the treatment? To answer that question, researchers at the UCLA AIDS Institute and Center for AIDS Research and the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS) investigated whether the virus induces age-associated epigenetic changes -- that is, changes to the DNA that, in turn, lead to changes in expression of gene levels without changing the inherited genetic code. These changes affect biological processes and can be brought on by environmental factors or by the aging process itself. In a study published online on March 25, 2015 in an open-access article in PLOS ONE, the researchers suggest that HIV itself accelerates these aging-related changes by more than 14 years. "While we were surprised by the number of epigenetic changes that were significantly associated with both aging and HIV-infection, we were most surprised that the data suggests HIV-infection can accelerate aging-related epigenetic changes by 13.7 to 14.7 years," said Dr. Beth Jamieson, Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and one of the study's senior authors. "This number is in line with both anecdotal and published data suggesting that treated HIV-infected adults can develop the diseases of aging mentioned above, approximately a decade earlier than their uninfected peers." The researchers examined samples of white blood cells stored by UCLA's MACS site, which has been collecting biological samples as well as clinical, behavioral, and socioeconomic data on men infected with HIV and men at risk for HIV infection since 1983.
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