June 18, 2008

Protein Can Predict Rate of HIV Infection

U.S. researchers say they've found a protein that can predict Alzheimer's disease and the rate of progression of the human immunodeficiency virus.

Investigators from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio led the study that provides more conclusive evidence of a link for the protein, called apoE4, to infectious diseases such as HIV.

The scientists studied 1,300 European and African-American HIV-infected patients, comparing HIV clinical outcomes of individuals who have two copies of the gene that makes the apoE4 protein with outcomes of those endowed with two copies of a gene that makes a related protein, apoE3. The latter differs from apoE4 by a single amino acid.

They found people with two copies of apoE4 were more likely to have a two-fold faster HIV disease course, noticeably marked by progression to death, than subjects with two copies that make apoE3.

The prevailing view is that apoE4 plays a role only in non-infectious diseases such as Alzheimer's but we found clear evidence to the contrary, said study co-author Dr. Sunil Ahuja, a professor of medicine, microbiology, immunology and biochemistry.

The report appears in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.