Brain damage from HIV, Alzheimer's, may have similar mechanism, SFVAMC researchers say

Both HIV and Alzheimers disease can damage the brain, but most people think the similarity between the two ends there. Recent research from San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center (SFVAMC) suggests a closer connection -- the brain damage from both diseases appears to involve inflammation, suggesting that anti-inflammatory drugs could help.

The latest findings to support this link show that AIDS dementia, like Alzheimers, may now be a chronic condition. The study, published in the latest issue of the journal AIDS, shows that immune cell markers of AIDS dementia remain even after a patient is treated with anti-retroviral drug cocktails.

These same markers are elevated in patients with Alzheimers disease, said lead author Lynn Pulliam, PhD, chief of microbiology at SFVAMC and UCSF professor of laboratory medicine and medicine.

The brain wages an immune response against HIV infection. We believe that the brain is damaged by inflammatory toxins that are released as part of the brains immune response. The amyloid plaques of Alzheimers are also believed to cause a toxic inflammatory response, Pulliam said.

Certain anti-inflammatory drugs may be able to reduce the damage from these toxins, according to cell culture studies published earlier this year in the journal Brain Research by Pulliams group. The brains of AIDS dementia patients have increased numbers of immune cells called monocyte/macrophages, which secrete chemicals that are toxic to cultured brain cells. The study found that treatment with an experimental anti-inflammatory drug developed by Centaur Pharmaceuticals prevented this toxicity.

The same drug, called CPI-1189, has been tested on patients with AIDS dementia in preliminary Phase II clinical trials, and it appears to improve patients performance on tests of psychomotor and cognitive function, according to Centaur Pharmaceuticals.

It would be very exciting if anti-inflammatory drugs turn

Contact: Kevin Boyd
University of California - San Francisco

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