New study says HIV has ‘significant’ impact on aging process

A man is examined by a doctor

A new study indicates that HIV infection has an “early and substantial” impact on the aging process.

The researchers found that this negative impact set in during the first 2-3 years of infection. Even on treatment, people living with the virus could lose up to five years of their life expectancy, they warn.

This helps explain why some people living with HIV are more prone to heart disease, cancer and other age-related problems.

The study was undertaken by scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). It was published in iScience.

The study looked at blood samples from 102 men before infection and then 2 to 3 years after infection. He compared these results with blood samples taken from men over a similar period who had not contracted the virus.

The study focused specifically on changes at the DNA level.

DNA and epigenetic aging

Long chains of proteins make up the DNA present in all human cells. DNA essentially programs your cells, encoding the functions they perform.

Over time, as our cells regenerate, these long chains of DNA undergo a process of degradation, called methylation. This means that the cells in our body are not functioning as well as when we were younger. We become more prone to disease or potential frailty.

Related: CDC says gay and bi men of color are still disproportionately affected by HIV

What biologically constitutes “aging” is complicated. However, certain parts of DNA are known to be more prone to this process over time. This is known as epigenetics aging.

In this study, people living with HIV showed “significant age acceleration” in these DNA regions. These changes took place “just before the infection and ended two to three years later, in the absence of very active antiretroviral treatment. A similar acceleration in age was not observed in uninfected participants during the same time interval,” according to a Press release about the study.

“Our access to rare and well-characterized samples allowed us to design this study in a way that leaves little doubt about the role of HIV in obtaining biological signatures of early aging,” said lead author Beth Jamieson, professor in the division of hematology. and oncology at the Geffen School.

“Our long-term goal is to determine if we can use any of these signatures to predict whether an individual is at increased risk for specific aging-related disease outcomes, thereby exposing new targets for therapeutic interventions.”

The treatment partly reverses the impact of aging

This isn’t the first research to look at HIV and aging. In May, a study in the Lancetfound that “persistent HIV inflammation” was linked to DNA aging.

In other words, the biological age of people with the virus seemed to be higher than their real age.

This was more marked in those who had been away for some time before starting treatment. When treatment began, it took up to two years for the impact to be partially reversed.

This study found the organic the age of infected persons must be between 1 and 3 years older than their real age.

Weird contacted Dr. Jamieson of UCLA to ask about his new study. She said people diagnosed soon after infection and put on treatment quickly were likely to have less to worry about.

“We haven’t directly tested the effects of early HIV treatment on epigenetic age, but taken with the results of two of our other studies, I believe that early treatment has the potential to halt epigenetic aging. .”

She believes this latest study is “another strong case for early detection and treatment of HIV”.

“This study demonstrates very clearly that HIV itself can alter the rate of epigenetic aging, increasing a person’s long-term risk for a shorter lifespan.

“I also think another important aspect of this work is that this study gives us a much clearer picture of the overall effects of HIV infection on the body. We are tracking this to better understand the relationship between these epigenetic changes and the health outcomes experienced by people living with treated HIV.

Related: Marjorie Taylor Greene displays complete ignorance around HIV

Avoiding age-related health problems with HIV

Since people with HIV can be more prone to heart, kidney and liver disease, what advice could Jamieson offer to help avoid TSS? Is it simply a question of adopting a healthy lifestyle and consulting your clinician regularly?

“One of the things we know is that our environment and our experiences affect epigenetics, so improving epigenetic aging is not out of reach,” she replied.

“The first thing that comes to mind is that people living with HIV should work with their clinicians to ensure that they are on medications that maintain suppression of the virus.

“Apart from this advice, we should borrow from all the advice given to people living without HIV. That’s exactly what you suggested. Get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, quit smoking, exercise, and get regular checkups. We know that smoking has a big impact on the epigenetic landscape, so smokers might want to consider that. »

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