The study demonstrates that HIV infection of the nervous system leads to inflammatory responses, changes in brain cells, and damage to neurons. This is the first study to show such neuronal loss during initial stages of HIV infection in a mouse model.
The study was conducted by a team of scientists from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, and the University of Rochester Medical Center, New York. It was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Center for Research Resources.
Behaviors associated with drug abuse, such as sharing drug injection equipment and/or engaging in risky sexual behavior while intoxicated, continue to fuel the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Howard Gendelman, one of the primary study authors, said: â€œThe work contained within this study is the culmination of a 20-year quest to develop a rodent model of the primary neurological complications of HIV infection in humans.
â€œPreviously, the rhesus macaque was the only animal model for the study of early stages of HIV infection. However, its use was limited due to expense and issues with generalizing results across species. Relevant rodent models that mimic human disease have been sorely needed.â€
Nora Volkow, director of NIDA, said: â€œThis research breakthrough should help us move forward in learning more about how HIV affects important brain functioning in its initial stages, which in turn could lead us to better treatments that can be used early in the disease process.â€
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