May 30, 2023

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HIV infection may shorten a person’s life expectancy by about 5 years

HIV infection may shorten a person’s life expectancy by about 5 years


Study: HIV infection may shorten a person’s life expectancy by about 5 years

According to UCLA researchers, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has an “early and substantial” effect on aging in infected people, accelerating biological changes in the body associated with normal aging within two to three years of infection.

According to the findings, a new HIV infection may shorten a person’s life expectancy by about 5 years compared to an uninfected person.


“Our work shows that even in the first months and years of HIV infection, the virus already initiates an accelerated aging process at the DNA level,” said study lead author Elizabeth Crabb Breen, UCLA Cousin Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the Center for Psychoneuroimmunology and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “This underscores the critical importance of early HIV diagnosis and awareness of aging-related issues, as well as the value of preventing HIV infection in the first place.”


The research was recently published in iScience .


Previous studies have shown that HIV and antiretroviral therapy used to control infection are associated with earlier initiation of age-related diseases such as heart and kidney disease, frailty and cognitive impairment.


The researchers examined blood samples from 102 men taken six months or less before they became infected with HIV and again two to three years later.

They compared it to a sample of 102 non-infected men of the same age collected over the same period. According to the authors, this is the first study to compare infected and non-infected people in this way.

All of these men were part of the Multicenter HIV Cohort Study, a nationwide U.S. study that began in 1984.


The researchers focused on how HIV affects epigenetic DNA methylation, the process cells use to turn genes on or off during normal physiological changes.

Epigenetic changes are changes made under the influence of the environment, people’s behavior, or other external factors — such as disease — that affect how genes behave without changing the genes themselves.


HIV infection may shorten a person's life expectancy by about 5 years



The team looked at five epigenetic measures of aging.

Four of these are so-called epigenetic “clocks,” and each uses a slightly different approach to estimating the acceleration of biological age, measured in years, relative to chronological age.

The fifth measure assessed the length of telomeres, the protective cap-like ends of chromosomes that are progressively shortened by cell division as cells age, until they become so short that division is no longer possible .


HIV-infected individuals showed significant age accelerations in each of the four epigenetic clock measures — ranging from 1.9 to 4.8 years — and in the absence of highly active antiretroviral therapy, Telomeres shorten from pre-infection to two to three years after infection.

A similar acceleration in age was not seen in uninfected participants over the same time interval.


“We obtained rare, well-characterized samples that allowed us to quantify HIV’s role in the biosignature of early aging with little or no effect,” said senior author Beth Jamieson, professor in the Department of Hematology and Oncology at the Geffen School of Medicine. This study was designed in a questioning manner. Our long-term goal is to determine whether we can use any of these features to predict whether a person is at increased risk for specific disease outcomes related to aging, thereby providing new targets for interventional therapies .”


The researchers noted some limitations of the study. It only includes men, so the results may not apply to women.

Furthermore, the number of non-white participants was small and the sample size was insufficient to account for late effects of highly active antiretroviral therapy or to predict clinical outcomes.


There is still no consensus on what normal aging is or how to define it, the researchers wrote.




HIV infection may shorten a person’s life expectancy by about 5 years

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