Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy, or HAART, is the standard of care for HIV/AIDS patients and has prolonged the lives of countless persons with the disease. HAART has been associated, however, with the emergence of lipodystrophy syndromes. In this months issue of the journal Mitochondrion*, researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., report that protease inhibitors, a component of HAART, can lead to mitochondrial toxicity. The effect, seen in this test tube study, of protease inhibitors on mitochondria could help explain the biology behind lipodystrophy and also could point to possible future therapeutic approaches for the syndrome.
Lipodystrophy is a clinical condition characterized by a poor or uneven distribution of fat cells. This distribution causes large amounts of fat to be stored in inappropriate places, which can lead to lower belly obesity and a buffalo-like hump on the upper back. Lipodystrophy side effects also include diabetes and high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. There is significant scientific debate about the precise mechanisms and metabolic pathways involved in the development of lipodystrophy.
The clinical features of HAART-associated lipodystrophy are similar to those commonly seen in people with mitochondrial dysfunction. The mitochondrion is the powerhouse of the cell, and interference with its normal processing of proteins and energy production can result in distortion or dysfunction of other cellular processes.
NCI Press Office | EurekAlert!
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