There are approximately 1.5 million people living with HIV in the U.S. using injection drugs, with opiods being the most popular. This combination of chronic HIV infection and persistent exposure to opiates results in exacerbated inflammation contributing to numerous HIV-associated co-morbidities such as HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) and end-stage AIDS.
In response, Rahm (Suryaram) Gummuluru, PhD, professor and vice-chair of the department of microbiology, has been awarded a five-year, $3.4 million R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the molecular mechanisms by which HIV-1 infection of microglia and drugs of abuse synergize to promote persistent innate mmune activation and neuronal damage.
Boston University investigators Christine Cheng, PhD, assistant professor of biology and Gustavo Mostoslavsky, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine and microbiology, are part of this collaborative effort.
The researchers will establish 3-D cerebral spheroid cultures consisting of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived primary human microglia, astrocytes and neurons (cells of the central nervous system). These novel 3-D cerebral spheroid culture systems will be utilized for identifying HIV and opiate-induced cellular and molecular defects in primary human neuronal cells.
“There is a substantial unmet need for novel therapeutic strategies. We believe that results from our newly funded proposal will inform future therapeutic development to suppress HIV and opiate-induced neuro-inflammation and prevent development of HAND and end stage disease in HIV-infected patients with opioid-use disorder,” said Dr. Gummuluru.