November 1, 2007
A five-year, $2.235 million grant to study HIV dementia has been awarded to a University of North Dakota professor.
"Our research is looking at how proteins that are part of the HIV virus can excite and kill neurons in the brain," said Jonathan Geiger, chair of pharmacology, physiology, and therapeutics at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. "The effects of these proteins in the brain can cause dementia, which results in cognitive, behavioral, and motor abnormalities."
The award comes from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.
Geiger has been studying HIV-related neurological problems since the early 1990s. He hopes his research will lead to interventions to prevent HIV dementia. "We don't know the cause of dementia, but we do know that HIV dementia is caused by the virus." He added he hopes his findings will shed light on other forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease.
Geiger said that while advanced AIDS drugs are helping patients live longer, "the drugs can't get into the brain that well. So since these people are living longer, they are coming into contact with other age-related neurological problems and using substances of abuse, like alcohol, which also increases problems with brain functions."
"This underscores the relevance and need to continue to do research and find the mechanisms causing these problems," Geiger said.