How HIV enters the brain

Organisation: Position: Deadline Date: Location:

Although it is known that HIV can enter the brain early during infection, causing inflammation and memory/cognitive problems, exactly how this occurs has been largely unknown. A new research report solves this mystery by showing that HIV relies on proteins expressed by a type of immune cell, called “mature monocytes,” to enter the brain. These proteins are a likely drug target for preventing HIV from reaching brain cells. Although not a direct focus of this research, these proteins might also shed light on novel mechanisms for helping drugs penetrate the blood-brain barrier.

“I hope this study brings awareness to the need for adjunctive therapies targeting monocyte influx into the brain as a means to decrease HIV entry into the brain and HIV-associated neuro-cognitive disorder,” said Dr Dionna W Williams, a researcher involved in the work from the department of pathology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York.

To make their discovery, scientists received blood from two groups of people – people infected by HIV and people who were not infected. Mature monocytes were obtained from the blood of people from both groups and researchers determined how many of these cells were present, what proteins the cells expressed and also characterised how they entered into the brain. The researchers found that the mature monocytes had an increased ability to enter into the brain due to the unique proteins they expressed, which could lead to HIV infecting the brain.

“Monocytes are normal part of the immune system’s defense against viruses, but these cells have also been known to act like ‘Trojan horses’ and carry viruses from the site of initial infection to other parts of the body,” said Dr John Wherry, deputy editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. “Identifying how these cells facilitate HIV entry into the brain might provide new treatment opportunities not only for HIV but other neurological diseases.”

Full press release
Journal of Leukocyte Biology abstract

Receive Medical Brief's free weekly e-newsletter

Related Posts

Thank you for subscribing to MedicalBrief

MedicalBrief is Africa’s premier medical news and research weekly newsletter. MedicalBrief is published every Thursday and delivered free of charge by email to over 33 000 health professionals.

Please consider completing the form below. The information you supply is optional and will only be used to compile a demographic profile of our subscribers. Your personal details will never be shared with a third party.

Thank you for taking the time to complete the form.