Autoimmune Overload May Damage HIV-Infected Brain
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Autoimmune Overload May Damage HIV-Infected Brain

July 26, 2010
This illustration depicts white blood cells swarming to attack HIV in the brain. Researchers now believe that the inflammation from this process may lead to HIV-related dementia.

National Science Foundation-supported researchers showed that HIV in the temporal lobe mutates at a rate 100 times faster than in other parts of the body, triggering white blood cells to continually swarm to attack the infection. The associated overcrowding and inflammation appear to cause the dementia. The findings could lead to new treatments that target HIV-infected white blood cells, perhaps one day countering the brain wasting that will affect as many as 15 percent of the nearly 40 million people around the world who are infected with the virus.

One of the critical tools behind the discovery is HIVBase, a genetic data-storage and -analysis tool with which the researchers tracked the rapidly evolving viruses. The tool was developed with the support of an NSF Small Business Innovation Research award.

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