Clinical and Research News
Tea Component May Benefit Patients With HIV
Psychiatric News
Volume 46 Number 5 page 18-18

Although active antiretroviral therapy (ART) is saving the lives of thousands of individuals affected with HIV, it does not do a very good job of countering neurocognitive damage caused by the virus (see Experts Offer Advice on Managing HIV Neurocognitive Impairment). Thus new drugs that can treat the damage effectively, or even prevent it, are needed.

One promising candidate is a compound present in green tea called epi-gallocatechin (EGCG).

Brian Giunta, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the University of South Florida, in collaboration with Francisco Fernandez, M.D., chair of psychiatry at the university, and other colleagues, has found several interesting things about EGCG in both in vitro and in vivo experiments that point to its potential as a candidate in the battle against HIV's neurocognitive effects. One, for example, is that EGCG is able to block the signaling of the cytokine IFN-gamma in neurons and microglia.

"This is important," Giunta told Psychiatric News, "because this cytokine is elevated in the HIV dementia brain, leading to neuronal dysfunction and death as well as a state of uncontrolled inflammation."

Another is that EGCG can help clear the brain of beta-amyloid plaques. "This finding is important," Giunta said, "because up to 50 percent of HIV-infected patients have Alzheimer's-like amyloid pathology."

EGCG is also being explored as a treatment or preventive for Alzheimer's disease in people without HIV, Giunta noted. For example, researchers reported in the September 21, 2005, Journal of Neuroscience that EGCG can reduce levels of amyloid plaque in mice genetically engineered to overproduce such plaques. 18_2.inline-graphic-1.gif

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