HIV Can Be Harbored In Brain Cells and Infect Other Organs NIH Findsadmin
According to a new study from the US National Institutes of Health “HIV can be harbored in brain cells and, from there, use white blood cells to ship the infection to other organs in the body,” IFLScience.com reports.
The study looked at the type of brain cell known as astrocytes which can be found across the brain and spinal cord. Scientists from the NIH and Rush University Medical Center transplanted HIV-infected human astrocyte brain cells into the brains of immunodeficient mice to see how it spread through their cells and organs. The researchers observed that T cells migrated out of the brain and into the rest of the body, transferring the infection to organs such as the spleen and lymph nodes.
“This study demonstrates the critical role of the brain as a reservoir of HIV that is capable of re-infecting the peripheral organs with the virus,” Jeymohan Joseph, Ph.D., chief of the HIV Neuropathogenesis, Genetics, and Therapeutics Branch at NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health, said in a statement. “The findings suggest that in order to eradicate HIV from the body, cure strategies must address the role of the central nervous system.”
“Our study demonstrates that HIV in the brain is not trapped in the brain – it can and does move back into peripheral organs through leukocyte trafficking,” Lena Al-Harthi, Ph.D., lead study author at Rush University Medical Center added.
What’s even more concerning is that the HIV traveled even in the bodies of mice that were given combination antiretroviral therapy (cART), which is given to people with HIV to suppress the virus, indicating that the virus from the brain could roll into a full-blown infection if, for whatever reason, the treatment is stopped.
To further research this topic, the team studied the donated brains of four deceased people with HIV who had received effective cART treatment and found that the brains’ astrocytes contained traces of HIV DNA, “suggesting they had been infected while receiving cART.”
Further research is needed, but in the meantime this study “highlights how the nervous system plays a surprisingly important role in the spread of HIV throughout the body.”