People with HIV are at higher risk of ageing-related genetic changes


Kirby Institute,  released June 2021

Forty years after the first diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, Australian scientists from the Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre have uncovered a vital link in the relationship between HIV and ageing. The results were published in the journal Nature Medicine.

In this world-leading study, the research team evaluated age-related genetic changes in over 400 participants from nine sites at hospitals and community practices; half of the participants had HIV and half did not.

The study found that people living with HIV had a higher rate of clonal haematopoiesis (CH), which results when a genetic mutation develops in a small number of blood stem cells and is a common finding among older people.

“One in 10 older people in the general population have these mutations in their blood cells, however our study found that one in five people with HIV have these mutations,” says Dr Nila Dharan from the Kirby Institute, co-lead author on the paper.

“As people with HIV have more cardiovascular disease and blood cancers than the general population, this finding suggests new pathways behind the development of medical conditions in people with HIV, and may in the future help identify preventive measures to reduce these conditions and optimise the health of ageing people with HIV.”

By J Pope

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