HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, often infiltrates the brains of infected patients, causing everything from cognitive decline to death.
Leading cause of dementia
According to Lipton, HIV infection has become the leading cause of dementia in people under the age of 40. In some cases, "you can't work, you can't concentrate or pay attention, you can't move properly," he said.
His team published its findings in the August issue of Cell Stem Cell.
Disrupts brain stem cells
Lipton and his colleagues found that the protein disrupts stem cells in the brain that are supposed to turn into new brain cells when needed. As a result, it becomes difficult for HIV-infected brains to create new cells when old ones are injured or killed off by the virus.