Protein Patterns May Help Identify HIV-Positive People Who Are at Risk of HIV-Associated Dementia, Study Says
HIV patients with symptoms of HIV-associated dementia have protein patterns that are different from the patterns of HIV-positive individuals who do not have dementia, a finding that could lead to a blood test to identify patients who may be at risk of developing dementia, according to a study published in the current issue of Neurology, Reuters Health reports. HIV-associated dementia is a progressive degeneration of the brain, which occurs in late-stage infection as HIV invades the central nervous system. About 10% of HIV-positive individuals have severe cognitive disorder, but a higher percentage have other neurological complications, Dr. Howard Gendelman, lead author of the study, said (Mulvihill, Reuters Health, 6/23). Using a new technique called "proteomics protein fingerprinting," which can be used to track patterns in protein activity in white blood cells, researchers from the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus-San Juan and the University of Nebraska Medical Center-Omaha analyzed blood samples from 31 Puerto Rican women ages 21 to 45 -- nine HIV-positive women with relatively high levels of cognitive impairment, 12 HIV-positive women with no dementia and 10 HIV-negative control subjects without dementia. The researchers found that of the 177 proteins examined, 38 proteins showed different activity levels in women with HIV-related dementia and women without dementia. Although all of the women with distinct protein profiles had HIV-associated dementia, not all of the dementia patients had the profile. The researchers hope to use the technology to one day develop a blood test to screen for HIV-related dementia, making it quicker, less expensive and more accurate to test for the neurological disorder (NIH release, 6/23). However, Gendelman said, "The data is preliminary and much more needs be done before it can be used in any clinical setting" (Reuters Health, 6/23).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.