Dementia in AIDS patients is caused by a large, late invasion of HIV-infected macrophages--large, long-lived cells of the immune system that travel throughout the body and ingest foreign antigens to protect against infection--into the brain, according to researchers at Temple Universitys Center for Neurovirology and Cancer Biology (http://www.temple.edu/cnvcb/), debunking a longstanding "Trojan Horse" theory that early infection by macrophages remains latent until the latter stages of AIDS.
Jay Rappaport, professor of biology in the Center for Neurovirology and Cancer Biology at Temple University.
The results of their study, "Macrophage/Microglial Accumulation and Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen Expression in the Central Nervous System in Human Immunodeficiency Virus Encephalopathy," was published in the June issue of the American Journal of Pathology [June 2004; Volume 164, Number 6] (http://ajp.amjpathol.org/). The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurodegenerative Disorder and Stroke and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
"Basically, one of the longstanding models for how HIV causes dementia is the Trojan Horse model," says Jay Rappaport, Ph.D., a professor of biology at the Center, who led the study. "According to this model, early during HIV infection, there may be a few macrophages that are infected and get into the brain and establish an infection in the resident microglia [long-term resident macrophages of the brain]. Then, late in the disease, theres a resurgence of the HIV virus from the macrophages." Rappaport and his collaborators believe that this longstanding theory does not hold true, that the early invasion of HIV-infected macrophages are controlled and cleared away by the bodys immune system.
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