SMHS Professor Awarded Two Multimillion NIH Grants for HIV-Associated Co-morbidity Research
Michael Bukrinsky, MD, PhD, professor of microbiology, immunology, and tropical medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, is conducting two studies focusing on HIV-associated disorders, with the support of grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Bukrinsky was awarded a five-year, $3.5 million grant for “Novel Pathogenic Mechanism of HIV-Associated CNS Neurological Disorders” and a four-year, $2.78 million grant for “Lipid Raft Therapy: A Novel Therapeutic Approach for HIV-Associated Cardiometabolic Co-Morbidities.”
“These grants enable our research team to test an innovative hypothesis regarding the pathogenesis of HIV-associated co-morbidities,” Bukrinsky said. “Over the next few years, we hope to make great strides in breaking down how and why these co-morbidities occur.”
Based on previous research conducted in his lab, Bukrinsky has hypothesized that the key pathogenic factor in these co-morbidities is the extracellular vesicles carrying the HIV protein Nef. These vesicles are released into the blood from HIV reservoirs that persist in HIV-infected individuals treated with anti-retroviral drugs. They impair cellular cholesterol metabolism and change the composition and properties of lipid rafts, cholesterol-rich regions of the plasma membrane. These changes subsequently make cells much more responsive to inflammatory stimuli and promote persistent inflammation, which is a critical factor in these co-morbidities.
“If our proposed studies can confirm this hypothesis, we’ll be able to envision a new line of therapeutic treatments targeting lipid rafts,” Bukrinsky said. “In other words, lipid raft therapy can hold the key for more strategically treating these disorders in patients.”