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HIV Can Lead to Nerve Cell Destruction in the Brain

HIV Can Lead to Nerve Cell Destruction in the Brain


HIV can activate a previously unknown biochemical pathway that leads to nerve cell destruction in the brain and contributes to such HIV-related conditions as dementia, seizures, loss of memory, and loss of motor skills, according to a study in the October issue of Nature Neuroscience. Researchers from the University of Calgary and the University of British Columbia report that HIV-infected cells secrete an enzyme called MPP-2 that converts a key protein in the brain into a nerve-damaging toxin. The higher the number of HIV-infected cells in the body, the higher the level of the nerve-damaging compound, which may help explain why late-stage AIDS patients with high viral loads are more prone to neurological complications, the scientists say. They hope to use their discovery as the foundation for new treatments aimed at blocking the activation of the biochemical pathway, which they say could benefit not only AIDS patients, but also those suffering from such neurological ailments as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease.

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