Having HIV — or getting treatment for it — speeds up the aging process, scientists report in a new study

From NPR online

Having HIV — or getting treatment for it — speeds up the aging process by about five years, on average, scientists report in a new study.

The findings, published in the journal Molecular Cell, fit with what doctors have seen in clinics: HIV-positive people tend to get hit earlier in life with age-related diseases, such as osteoporosis, heart disease and dementia.

But the study also opens up the possibility of addressing a broader question: How to measure a disease’s impact on aging.

“We all know that some people appear to age faster than others,” says Trey Ideker, a biologist at the University of California, San Diego, who co-led the study. “There are external signs of aging, like gray hair and wrinkles. But the inside of our bodies also show signs.”

One of those signals is hidden in our genomes — not the genetic code itself but how the genome is decorated.

Before you’re born, your DNA gets decorated with little tags, called methylation, which help turn genes on and off. As you age, some tags fall off. Others get added. By looking at the pattern of these tags, Ideker and his colleagues found they could estimate how fast a person is aging.

“And that measurement is better at predicting when someone will die than their chronological age — or the number of years they’ve been on Earth,” Ideker says.

For instance, say you’re 50 years old, but your DNA tags look like you’re 55. Then your body is aging about 10 percent faster than the average 50-year-old’s body. And you might want to get screened for age-related diseases five years earlier.

That’s exactly what Ideker and his team found for men with HIV.

Read the full article.


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