Study shows how HIV and cancer drugs accelerate cellular aging


HIV patients tend to show premature signs of aging. Cancer, cognitive diseases, osteoporosis – these maladies all come before their time for people living with HIV. But it’s not clear why.

“The big question for HIV patients is whether the virus itself is causing aging or the drugs being used to treat the virus,” asks Samantha Sanford, a Ph.D. student in the Pitt Public Health's Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and lead author on a new study published in Nature Communications. Sanford and colleagues at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center found that HIV drugs hasten aging, at least in part, by blocking telomeres – the protective tips on the end of our chromosomes – from replenishing themselves.  

“Sam was the first to show exactly how these drugs stop telomeres from replenishing ,” explains Sanford’s mentor and senior author, EOH professor Patty Opresko. “Before her study, no one had demonstrated that telomerase could take one of these chain terminating drugs and tack it onto the telomere LEGO tower.

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