Boston college biologist awarded NIH grant to probe link between HIV and peripheral neuropathy

February 5th, 2013
Boston College biologist Tricia Burdo has been awarded a five-year, $1.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the role of the body's immune response in a debilitating form of nerve damage suffered by people living with HIV.

Among HIV patients, as many as 69.4 percent are afflicted with peripheral neuropathy of the arms, legs, hands, feet, fingers and toes. The most common neurological disorder associated with people living with HIV, it is known as "dying back", a painful condition where sensory nerves die and then retreat, causing a loss of sensitivity and function.

Burdo, an associate research professor in the lab of Professor of Biology Ken Williams, said the group has been exploring the connection between peripheral neuropathy and inflammation in the dorsal root ganglia located outside of the spine. The focal point is macrophage activation, the disruptive activity of cells associated with the body's immunological response to infection.

The presence and behavior of those cells could help to determine what triggers peripheral neuropathy in HIV patients, Burdo said.

"We're studying what's going on in dorsal root ganglia in terms of inflammation by macrophage activation and correlating that to this nerve loss," said Burdo.

Central to the study, funded by the NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), is the molecule CD163, identified by Burdo and Williams as a biological marker for the activation of macrophages and monocytes in patients with HIV.

Burdo said the team hopes to develop a clearer understanding of the progression of peripheral neuropathy, how to pinpoint early and advanced stages of neuropathy with biomarkers, and potential drug therapies that could stop or slow the disease.

Provided by Boston College

This Phys.org Science News Wire page contains a press release issued by an organization mentioned above and is provided to you “as is” with little or no review from Phys.Org staff.

More news stories

DARPA seeks new positioning, navigation, timing solutions

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), writing about GPS, said: "The military relies heavily on the Global Positioning System (GPS) for positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT), but GPS access is easily blocked by methods such as jamming. In addition, many environments in which our mil ...

Lights out in Australia as Earth Hour kicks off

The Sydney Harbour Bridge and the sails on the nearby Opera House went dark Saturday, as lights on landmarks around Australia were switched off for the global climate change awareness campaign Earth Hour.

New way to evaluate meniscus tear outcomes

An individual's meniscus (cushion in the knee) is one of the most important ligaments in the leg providing stability, load bearing and preservation of the knee joint. It is also one of the most easily injured areas and difficult ...

No need to delay rotator cuff surgery, study shows

Delaying rotator cuff surgery on patients with shoulder stiffness may not be necessary, according to research presented today at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine's (AOSSM) Specialty Day.