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Understanding Accelerated Aging in Women Living with HIV: Challenges and Interventions

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Zara Nwosu
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Understanding Accelerated Aging in Women Living with HIV: Challenges and Interventions

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In a groundbreaking study led by Stephanie Shiau at Rutgers University, it has been revealed that women living with HIV experience accelerated DNA aging, which leads to poor physical function. This accelerated aging presents unique challenges as these women grow older and underscores the need for interventions tailored specifically to enhance their health outcomes.

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Accelerated DNA Aging in Women with HIV

The study focused on a sample of 195 women with HIV between the ages of 40 and 60. These women were compared to a group of women without the virus to explore how markers of aging measured in blood were related to bone mineral density and physical function measurements. The findings were unsettling, as women with HIV were found to be aging faster than their chronological age.

As a result, women living with HIV experience higher rates of bone loss compared to women without the virus. This worrying fact places them at an increased risk of fractures as they age.

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Psychosocial Factors and Accelerated Aging

Existing evidence suggests that people living with HIV (PLWH) experience accelerated aging due to a multitude of factors. Among these are psychosocial stress, depressive symptoms, problematic substance use, lower adherence to antiretroviral therapy, systemic inflammation, and reduced connectivity in the brain's central executive network (CEN).

Implications for Health Outcomes

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The implications of this accelerated aging process are far-reaching. For instance, a study projected the cumulative incidence and mortality associated with age-associated dementias (AAD) among people with HIV aged at least 60 years in the United States. It found that a higher percentage of 60-year-old PWH would develop AAD compared to the general population, leading to lower life expectancy and quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs).

Strides in Research and Potential Interventions

Despite the daunting challenges, researchers are making significant strides in the search for biomarkers that quantify biological aging. A new clinical trial has shown promising signs that a combination of the drug vorinostat and immunotherapy can coax HIV-infected cells out of latency. There's also potential for CRISPR Cas9 gene editing to eliminate HIV 1 mRNA from cortical mixed glia in vitro and in vivo.

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Further investigation into the role of HIV in the pathogenesis of femoral head destruction and the potential of bone marrow as a reservoir for HIV persistence is also crucial.

A Call to Action

The study led by Stephanie Shiau not only contributes insights into the challenges faced by women with HIV but also provides a basis for further examination of long-term outcomes for those living with the virus. It's a call to action for the medical and scientific community to develop tailored interventions that can help enhance health outcomes for women living with HIV and slow down the accelerated aging process they experience.

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