To answer that question, researchers at the UCLA AIDS Institute and Center for AIDS Research and the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study investigated whether the virus induces age-associatedepigenetic changes—that is, changes to the DNA that in turn lead to changes in expression of gene levels without changing the inherited genetic code. These changes affect biological processes and can be brought on by environmental factors or by the aging process itself.
In a study published online in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE, the researchers suggest that HIV itself accelerates these aging related changes by more than 14 years.
“While we were surprised by the number of epigenetic changes that were significantly associated with both aging and HIV-infection, we were most surprised that the data suggests HIV-infection can accelerate aging-related epigenetic changes by 13.7 to 14.7 years,” said Beth Jamieson, professor of medicine in the division of hematology/oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and one of the study’s senior authors. “This number is in line with both anecdotal and published data suggesting that treated HIV-infected adults can develop the diseases of aging mentioned above, approximately a decade earlier than their uninfected peers.”