Hope on the horizon

A 31yo Aussie scientist has discovered how the HIV virus unexpectedly causes dementia.

Above: Monash University scientist, Dr Lachlan Gray

By Yasmin Noone

Scientists are one step away from developing a treatment for HIV-related dementia, thanks to new Australian findings which pinpoint exactly how the HIV virus causes the degenerative disease.

The ground-breaking discovery- made by a 31-year-old Monash University researcher, Dr Lachlan Gray- shows that the HIV virus can hide out in the brain, protected from the immune system and antiviral drugs.

“HIV does get into the brain quite early,” Dr Gray said. “As soon as you are affected with the virus, we can [now] detect it in the brain.”

Dr Gray explained what happens when HIV infects the brain. Either the virus replicates efficiently, destroying brain cells causing dementia. “…Or, the virus goes into the [area of] the brain and lays dormant. It can be undetectable to the immune system and to the drugs used to treat the virus.”

It is at this point, he said, where a possible treatment could flush the virus out from the brain and prevent or delay the onset of HIV-dementia.

“So we were looking at the instance where a person doesn’t have dementia but there is a potential for the disease to occur and for the virus to reactivate.

“Hopefully, we can prevent that occurring in the first place…and develop a new drug that targets the virus to prevent it from hiding out in the brain. A new drug could remove HIV from the brain so it doesn’t have the chance to destroy brain cells.”

Dr Gray’s discovery provides hope for the one in five HIV patients who will develop HIV-dementia.

The research also forms part of a larger project which aims to to trial new drugs that could potentially eradicate or even cure HIV.

“Our findings will aid the development of novel drugs that will prevent HIV using the brain as a sanctuary, and help to shape future eradication strategies.”

Dr Gray’s research was recently unvieled as part of the government-sponsored program, Fresh Science. He and 15 other early career scientists were selected to participate in the national program and present their work to the public for the first time ever.

“I have always had an interest in virus’, especially after watching movies like Outbreak which deals with a dangerous bug that destroys cities: something so small that could ultimately bring about our demise.

“I find virus’s amazing and want to see how they work and want to help people who are affected by these virus’.”

The young scientist said he had been working to find the link between HIV-dementia and the HIV virus for over a year and a half. He first came across a glimmer of hope around six months ago.

“It’s always good to come across a ‘Eureka moment’.

“Hopefully, through this finding, we will be able to develop new drugs that will reduce the prevalence of dementia in the HIV community and improve the quality of life of those living with HIV.”

Tags: acfi, aged-and-community-services-australia, aged-care-association-australia, funding, indexing, productivity-commission, rcs,

5 thoughts on “Hope on the horizon

  1. hi,

    Thank you so much for the great work you are doing. indeed the person who will discover the cure for hiv virus will be the greatest scientist in our generation.

    my question is: WILL THERE BE CURE FOR HIV? if so WHEN?

  2. thankyou to you all that are trying to combat this dieseas, am just curious as l found out on a rapid test for h.l.v yesterday 30/06/2011 that l was positive, am so scared and l dont even know what to do next.

  3. I agree.The group of scientist who will discover the cure for Hiv will be the greatest in the world and the country they come from will be the greatest in medical research.

  4. No one will ever know how sad and hopeless one infected with HIV feels in the first place. MAy God bless the work of Dr. Gray and give him long life and more wisdom to come up with the cure soonest.

  5. Please, try to become one of the greatest men on earth still. So many people (including myself) want You to succeed.

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