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The Blood-Brain Barrier and HIV
Sep 16, 1999

Three questions?

#1 Exactly what is the "blood brain barrier"?

#2 I guess the blood cells in some way must pass the "blood brain barrier". If that is true how can it then be that very small chemical structures in many medicines not can pass it? I would believe the blood cells to be large in comparison?

#3 Is any of the HIV medicines in practical use able to pass the "blood brain barrier" to also fight the viruses that have got through this area?

Thanks for an excelent service! The best on the web!

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Thank you for your question.

The Blood-Brain Barrier is natures way of protecting the most important organ of the body, the brain. This barrier protects the brain against various chemicals, toxins, and infectious agents that can be found in the blood. The blood-brain barrier provides an extra level of defense that is even more protective of the brain, as compared to other parts of the body. The blood-brain barrier allows certain good things pass through (like nutrients to feed brain cells), but at the same time, prevents harmful things from passing through (like toxins and infectious agents).

When it comes to HIV, the virus has found a way to bypass the blood-brain barrier, and still make it's way into the brain. This may occur by HIV hiding inside monocytes, which makes it easier for HIV to pass through through the barrier. Once inside the brain, HIV is capable of living and replicating inside certain brain cells. HIV inside the brain has been linked to HIV/AIDS Dementia.

When it comes to HIV antiviral medications, most can also pass through the barrier, with various levels of success. Although the barrier may initially pose an obstacle for certain antiviral medications to get though, most are indeed capable of passing through the barrier, so they can have the opportunity to work against HIV in the brain.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).



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