PET scans showing dopamine transporters (top row) and dopamine D2 receptors (bottom row) in a 47-year-old control subject (left), a 48-year-old HIV subject without dementia (middle), and a 52-year-old HIV subject with dementia (right), at the level of the basal ganglia. The images are scaled with respect to the maximum value obtained in the control subject and presented using the rainbow scale (red color - high value, violet low value). The HIV subjects with dementia showed significantly lower dopamine transporter availability bilaterally compared to the seronegative controls in the putamen and in the ventral striatum, but only mild and non-significant decreases in the caudate. The non-demented HIV patients, however, showed no significant decreases in dopamine transporters in the basal ganglia. Dopamine D2 receptor availability did not differ between the HIV and the control subjects in any of the regions.
Finding may lead to new therapies
Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have discovered a key mechanism in the brains of people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) dementia. The study is the first to document decreases in the neurotransmitter dopamine in those with the condition, and may lead to new, more effective therapies. HIV dementia is a type of cognitive decline that is more common in the later stages of HIV infection.
“Our results offer the first evidence of dopamine terminal injury — specifically injury to dopamine transporters — in HIV dementia patients,” says Brookhaven physician Gene-Jack Wang, the study’s lead author. “This suggests that a decrease in transporters may contribute to the disease process. We believe our findings also indicate a new direction for treatment.” The study appears in the September 2004 issue of the British scientific journal Brain. Physician Linda Chang, formerly a researcher at Brookhaven Lab and now with the University of Hawaii, initiated this research.
Karen McNulty Walsh | EurekAlert!
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