The relative absence of Alzheimer’s disease in aging HIV patients on antiretroviral medication suggests this could be the case.
It once seemed like treating HIV would never happen. Those diagnosed with the disease would certainly die from it, and sooner rather than later. But that’s all changed. With medications and antiretroviral therapies that really work, science has worked its way towards keeping the health problems associated with the dreaded illness at bay. People can now live productive lives with a positive diagnosis, for many years.
And the same future could exist for those afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, someday.
A study conducted by scientists from Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) has found that the gene associated with Alzheimer’s, called APP, is recombined using the same type of enzyme found in HIV. Basically, this means the two sicknesses have something in common at a genetic level.
Gene recombination is something that goes wrong in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists involved in the study believe that existing FDA-approved antiretroviral therapies for HIV might be able to halt the recombination process when it comes to dementia and could be a possible treatment.
“Today’s discovery is a step forward — but there is so much that we still don’t know,” says Jerold Chun, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of the paper and senior VP of Neuroscience Drug Discovery at SBP. “We hope to evaluate gene recombination in more brains, in different parts of the brain and involving other recombined genes-in Alzheimer’s disease as well as other neurodegenerative and neurological diseases-and (to) use this knowledge to design effective therapies targeting gene recombination.”
Experts are calling Alzheimer’s disease a public health crisis. Its cause remains unknown, and there’s no meaningful treatment.
Nearly six million people in the U.S. are living with the disease. This is expected to reach 14 million by 2060.