HIV/AIDS treatments shown to disrupt cognitive function

Antiretroviral medications that are commonly part of treatments for HIV infections and AIDS were recently proved to interrupt the function of insulation known as oligodendrocytes that protect the brain.

Oligodendrocytes are brain cells that create myelin. The body uses myelin, a fatty material, to surround neurons in the brain. This allows neurons to send signals quickly and efficiently.

The antiretroviral treatments (ART) help people who have HIV or AIDS live longer. With these treatments, many people with these illnesses only have chronic conditions instead of terminal illnesses.

Unfortunately, approximately half of the people who take antiretroviral drugs develop cognitive impairments, such as memory loss or difficulty in executive functions. These difficulties continue even when the infection is nearly undetectable.

"Pharmaceutical companies have done an amazing job developing drugs to make HIV patients live longer, but we're not done," Kelly Jordan-Sciutto, professor and chair of Penn's School of Dental Medicine's Department of Pathology, who co-led the research with Judith Grinspan, a professor of neurology at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine, said. "The message we want to get out there is that we want to make these patients' lives better while they are on ART."

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University of Pennsylvania

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