Patients with HIV are five years older than their biological age mark, which carries a 19% mortality risk.
US – The effectiveness of antiretroviral therapies against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has made it possible for patients to live for many decades after the infection. However, as various studies have warned, these antiretroviral therapies fail to curb one of the effects caused by the virus: premature aging. An effect which, however, has been blamed by other research to antiretroviral drugs themselves.
Anyway, a new study conducted by researchers at the Medical Center of the University of Nebraska at Omaha (USA) shows that, on average and organic level, patients with HIV agealmost 5 years more than their biological age. A worrying aspect premature aging because this entails, among other consequences, is that age-related diseases develop more early.
As Howard Fox, co-author of the research published in the journal Molecular Cell, said that medical complications that occur in the treatment of people with HIV are no longer the same as yesteryear. There is no longer a concern for infections derived from an immunocompromised state. The current concern is about age – related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment and liver problems.
To conduct the study, researchers analyzed epigenetic changes in cells of patients with HIV. Specifically, these epigenetic changes are alterations, while not altering the DNA sequence, alter the way in which the contents in the DNA genes are expressed.
Among these epigenetic changes highlights a chemical modification called ‘methylation’ that is, the addition of one or more methyl groups to a molecule, in this case the DNA-chain, which can alter the final form of the proteins encoded in the genes.
As noted by Trey Ideker, director of the study, from previous research ageing changes the pattern of methylation throughout the genome; an effect that some scientists call ‘genetic entropy’ or ‘genetic drift’. And while the exact mechanism is unknown it explains these epigenetic changes that cause the appearance of the symptoms of aging can be measured in the cells of anyone.
To carry out the study, the authors obtained cell samples from 137 patients with HIV, treated with a combination of antiretroviral drugs, who were in good health and compared with those of 44 subjects who had not contracted the infection as control.
The results showed that HIV aging entailed an average 4.9 years on biological age. And as the authors noted, “this change correlates directly with an increased risk of mortality by 19%.”
Trey said that the examined effects of HIV on methylation showed a strong effect on aging. Fox also noted that one surprising aspect is that they found no differences in methylation patterns among people infected recently, that is, who had contracted HIV for less than five years and those with chronic infection; carrying the infection more than 12 years with the virus.
In short, it seems that premature aging is one of the first negative effects caused by HIV from the moment of infection.
So much so that, as the authors conclude that persons with HIV should be aware that they have an increased risk of age-related diseases and therefore adopt healthy lifestyles in relation to exercise, diet, alcohol and snuff to reduce this risk.