Researcher study the dangerous effects of cocaine on HIV patients

March 21, 2013, George Washington University

Cocaine, already a damaging drug for those with healthy immune systems, can be lethal for those living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Mudit Tyagi, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine at the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), has received two federally funded grants to study how dangerous this combination is in HIV patients.

Both grants are from the National Institute on , a component institute of National Institutes of Health, which support research focusing on illicit drugs abuse. The first grant he received, titled "Cocaine Enhances HIV Replication by Inducing Transcriptionally Active Chromatin," is for $405,000 and the second grant, titled "Cocaine Induced Selective Epigenetic and Signaling Pathways Enhance HIV Replication," is for $317,000. These grants will allow Tyagi to investigate the impact of drug abuse on HIV gene expression, replication and transmission, especially in brain cells, as the brain is a primary target for both drugs and HIV.

"We are seeing new cases of HIV coming from the younger generation," said Tyagi. "And, unfortunately, the majority of these cases are coming from persons taking these ."

Abusing drugs, such as cocaine, is known to modify both cellular epigenetics and signaling pathways, which in turn modulate the expression of several cellular genes. This has led researchers to believe that gene expression of integrated HIV proviruses are also influenced with this type of stimuli that eventually translates into enhanced HIV replication and transmission in drug addicted HIV patients. Cocaine, one of the most widely abused drugs in the United States, impairs both the normal functioning of and activates HIV gene expression in the . As a result, HIV-infected individuals who abuse cocaine experience a more severe and rapid onset of NeuroAIDS than non-abusing individuals.

"As the population is getting older, we are having a lot of instances of HIV episodic dementia – known as HIV Associated Dementia (HAD)," said Tyagi. "Drug abuse induces these problems, even in younger HIV patients, and escalates them in older patients."

Additionally, drug abusers have a higher risk of getting infected with HIV through sharing needles and having unprotected sex.

Tyagi's research will focus on the study of the molecular mechanisms involved in the regulation of HIV gene expression and replication by cocaine in two primary macrophage cells, microglial (residential macrophage cells of brain) and peripheral macrophages (the circulating macrophage cells). Cocaine is known to modulate expression of several cellular genes by inducing selective chromatin modifications that regulate a specific set of enzymes. His team of researchers will investigate how of integrated HIV provirus is affected by cocaine-induced selective core histones acetylations in those primary cells. These modifications ultimately contribute to a more rapid deterioration of the immune and nervous systems, which is quite prevalent in HIV patients who abuse drugs.

This work is expected to lead towards the discovery of new mechanisms to regulate in the context of drug abuse. A better understanding of these mechanisms could reveal new drug targets and open up new avenues for improved pharmaceutical interventions in who are addicted to drugs.

Explore further: Addictive properties of drug abuse may hold key to an HIV cure

Related Stories

Addictive properties of drug abuse may hold key to an HIV cure

September 21, 2012
A Florida State University researcher is on a mission to explore the gene-controlling effects of addictive drugs in pursuit of new HIV treatments.

New book on HIV from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press

December 15, 2011
The worldwide AIDS epidemic makes research on HIV, the disease processes it induces, and potential HIV therapies among the most critical in biomedical science. Furthermore, the basic biology of HIV infections provides a model ...

HIV-1 vaccine development: Pinning down a moving target

November 12, 2012
HIV-1 is a genetically diverse collection of viruses, making it a moving target in vaccine development.

Recommended for you

HIV-1 genetic diversity is higher in vaginal tract than in blood during early infection

January 18, 2018
A first-of-its-kind study has found that the genetic diversity of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) is higher in the vaginal tract than in the blood stream during early infection. This finding, published in PLOS ...

War in Ukraine has escalated HIV spread in the country: study

January 15, 2018
Conflict in Ukraine has increased the risk of HIV outbreaks throughout the country as displaced HIV-infected people move from war-affected regions to areas with higher risk of transmission, according to analysis by scientists.

Researchers offer new model for uncovering true HIV mortality rates in Zambia

January 12, 2018
A new study that seeks to better ascertain HIV mortality rates in Zambia could provide a model for improved national and regional surveillance approaches, and ultimately, more effective HIV treatment strategies.

New drug capsule may allow weekly HIV treatment

January 9, 2018
Researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women's Hospital have developed a capsule that can deliver a week's worth of HIV drugs in a single dose. This advance could make it much easier for patients to adhere to the strict schedule ...

New long-acting, less-toxic HIV drug suppresses virus in humanized mice

January 8, 2018
A team of Yale researchers tested a new chemical compound that suppresses HIV, protects immune cells, and remains effective for weeks with a single dose. In animal experiments, the compound proved to be a promising new candidate ...

Usage remains low for pill that can prevent HIV infection

January 8, 2018
From gritty neighborhoods in New York and Los Angeles to clinics in Kenya and Brazil, health workers are trying to popularize a pill that has proven highly effective in preventing HIV but which—in their view—remains woefully ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.