TUESDAY, June 28 (HealthDay News) -- Some HIV patients experience memory loss and other neurological deficits, despite treatment, and new research suggests that the reason why is because the virus weakens the blood-brain barrier by infecting a small group of supporting brain cells called astrocytes.
The blood-brain barrier is a network of blood vessels that protects the brain from harmful chemicals and toxins. In healthy people, astrocytes help bolster the blood vessels that comprise the blood-brain barrier.
The finding, published in the June 29 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, may help explain why 40 percent to 60 percent of HIV patients on antiretroviral therapy experience mild to moderate neurological problems such as learning difficulties.
For this study, the researchers built a model of the blood-brain barrier using human cells in the laboratory. The research was supported by the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.
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