CIIDI Co-Director Receives R15 from the National Institute for Aging
Antiretroviral therapy (ART) sometimes referred to as the HIV cocktail, is the combination
of several drugs that slow the rate that HIV can copy itself and spread through the
body. This therapy has become the standard treatment for HIV as recommended by the
Department of Health and Human Services. While this treatment lowers the amount of
the virus in the body, referred to as viral load, it does not eliminate it entirely.
Because of this, inflammation caused by the immune systems response to the virus
persists and becomes chronic.
This chronic inflammation can lead to a number of other diseases, including heart disease, stroke, and cancer. This is often best expressed in specific cells in the immune system called T cells. These cells are part of the immune response, but in patients undergoing ART these T cells are not healthy. They often appear aged and with limited function, much like what is seen in much older patients. In a sense, chronic inflammation speeds aspects of aging in the body.
Dr. Jonathan Moorman, a physician, professor, and Co-Director of the Center of Excellence in Inflammation, Infectious Disease and Immunity at Quillen College of Medicine was recently awarded an R15 grant from the National Institute for Aging to investigate strategies to better understand how chronic inflammation affects aging. His research focuses specifically on a microRNA molecule called miR-181a and its effect on T cells. He believes that by limiting the disruption to this microRNA molecule, he can keep T cells healthier and, in turn, keep patients on ART healthier over the long-term.
This research will not only assist HIV patients, but has the potential to improve
the health of any patient
that is suffering from diseases characterized by chronic inflammation. This includes hepatitis, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohns disease, type 1 diabetes, and colitis, just to name a few. Dr. Moorman hopes that this research can eventually lead to treatments that prevent chronic inflammation and its associated health problems in a wide variety of patients and allow them to live longer, healthier lives.