Scientists have been puzzled by the phenomenon of patients who have HIV developing problems with their memory and motor skills. These patients, who have no signs of AIDS, are at a greater risk for developing serious depression and other cognitive conditions.
Now, researchers are suggesting they may have found a potential reason as to why people infected by HIV may also have to battle dementia. A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests that a syndrome in a patient's brain may trigger the dementia.
"We believe we have discovered a general mechanism of neuronal decline that even explains what happens in some elderly folks," said the study's lead investigator, Italo Mocchetti, professor and vice chair of the department of neuroscience at Georgetown University Medical Center. "The HIV-infected patients who develop this syndrome are usually quite young, but their brains act old."
Mochetti said that HIV could stop production of the mature protein BDNF because it interferes with the disease's ability to attack brain cells. He continues that this process is done through the gp120 envelope protein. The study's authors are hopeful that these findings might help create new ways to test people infected with HIV for dementia.
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