Research Digest: Brains, Bones, and HIV

This post is part of an ongoing series on HIV/AIDS in recognition of HIV/AIDS awareness month 2022. In this series, we focus our posts on education, research, achievements, and medicine pertaining to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

In this month’s research digest, we will cover recent work by UNMC ID faculty uncovering the link between HIV and various comorbidities associated with infection. HIV research is far from a new topic for this installment (see our previous HIV-focused research digests here and here), which speaks to the commitment of UNMC ID faculty to furthering HIV knowledge and research. Read on for a quick summary of two articles focused on HIV comorbidities dealing with brains and bones, namely HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder and bone fractures.

Dr. Swindells, co-author of a recent paper investigating HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder.

The first paper, co-authored by Dr. Susan Swindells, aims to define the functional similarities and differences between Alzheimer’s disease and HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder. The most common form of dementia in the general population is Alzheimers disease, affecting about 10% of adults age 65 or older. However, in those living with HIV, HIV-associated neurocognitive disfunction becomes even more common, affecting 40-70% of this population. Understanding how and where brain dysfunction occurs in these two diseases could help researchers design new treatments for both conditions. Using functional MRI imaging, that is exactly what the authors studied. They uncovered distinct differences in brain dysfunction in these two diseases, which may also lead to better diagnosis of these conditions in the future. Read the full article here for the details on what these differences were and what they may mean in a broader context.

Dr. Bares, co-author on a recent paper assessing the efficacy of hormone therapy for fracture prevention in WLWH.

The second paper spotlighted here is co-authored by Dr. Sara Bares and investigates the effectiveness of hormone therapy for the prevention of fractures in older women living with HIV (WLWH). This population has been reported to experience fractures at a higher rate than those living without HIV, but no data existed previously to suggest whether estrogen treatment could help prevent fractures in WLWH. The study found that smoking as well as certain demographic factors were associated with increased risk of fracture, but they did not find evidence that hormone therapy or HIV status affected fracture rates. They end with a call for further research of hormone therapy in this population, which may have other benefits beyond fracture prevention. For the full findings, read the paper here.

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