How HIV affects the aging process? What is "Immune Exhaustion?"

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Educators often explain what happens in the body of people with HIV as a battle: the war between the virus and immune cells. Although too simple, this explanation is true. HIV is not unique in this respect, however. The immune system is constantly "war" with a number of harmful organisms, for example, viruses and bacteria which enter our bodies and our own cells that become defective and begin to reproduce very rapidly - what we call cancer .

Where HIV differs from many diseases is that in 99 percent of HIV-positive patients the immune system people can not control the virus very well. This constant battle state, where the virus reproduces and the body fights against it, keeps the immune system on high alert chronically, a so-called inflammation syndrome.

Inflammation is not intrinsically evil and that is something that we need to fight infections such as avian flu, to repair the damage to body tissues and prevent the growth of certain types of cancers, but unchecked inflammation can cause absolute chaos on the body, even causing heart attack and stroke, caused by fatty plaques in our arteries, feeding the growth of some cancers, and the gradual loss of our immune system.

We know that from the earliest years of the epidemic the immune systems of people with HIV were chronically inflamed, but before the introduction of the combination of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in the late 1990, most people with HIV died very young and very fast to know the long-term consequences of inflammation so that we may know them. Since HAART became available, and people began to live longer, scientists were finally able to study the long-term effects of inflammation in people living with HIV.

In the last decade, several studies have produced some important results. We know that inflammation is significantly reduced in people who are able to achieve and maintain their viral loads undetectable using ART. This is one reason why the committee responsible for writing the treatment guidelines for HIV Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommends that people start ART for HIV as early as possible. Unfortunately, we have also learned that an undetectable viral load does not mean that the inflammation is completely blocked, which can still be detected, and can cause problems in people who, otherwise, would be responding well to ART (Antiretroviral Therapy).

While researchers are concerned with how inflammation directly affects major organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys, they are also interested in how chronic inflammation affects the immune system itself. The longer the person's immune system continues to fight HIV - even if ART is being used and the more likely that person from this experience has immunosenescence age-related, sometimes also called "immune exhaustion."

This condition means that immune cells can not react appropriately when faced with a new challenge. They also do not reproduce easily and efficiently. In fact, when scientists have the immune cells of persons with HIV, they find that these cells often have the same degree of wear as compared to the immune system of HIV negative individuals people with HIV are biologically decades more older than the temporal age of these people.


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