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HIV stops new brain cells from growing

17 August 2007 news service

For some time we've known that HIV can cause a form of dementia, but this had been attributed to the loss of mature brain cells, killed off by an HIV protein called gp120.

Now Stuart Lipton and his colleagues at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in San Diego, California, have found that gp120 also slows down the division of adult stem cells called neural progenitor cells (aNPCs), thought to be important for memory and learning. When rat aNPCs were exposed to gp120, 15 per cent of them stopped dividing.

By identifying and blocking the enzymes gp120 affects, Lipton's team was able to restart normal cell division in cultured aNPCs. They hope a similar approach might provide therapies for AIDS-related dementia (Cell Stem Cell, DOI 10.1016/j.stem.2007.07.010).

From issue 2617 of New Scientist magazine, 17 August 2007, page 15