Three scientists, including Gladstone's Melanie Ott, MD, PhD, have been chosen to receive the 2014 Avant-Garde Award for HIV/AIDS Research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health. The three scientists will each receive $500,000 per year for five years to support their research.
Project: A new model of accelerated immune aging in HIV-infected drug users
Dr. Ott will investigate the role of an enzyme (SIRT-1) in slowing accelerated immune aging resulting from either long-term HIV infection or regular drug use. Because SIRT-1 appears to protect against overworked immune activation that can eventually exhaust immune cell functions, new therapies aimed at this enzyme could delay immune aging and its related health risks in HIV-infected drug users.
“The goal of our research is to transform our understanding of how HIV and drug abuse affect the immune system and the aging process,” Ott said. “We hope to identify novel links between HIV, abused substances and the biological pathways of aging that lead to potential therapeutic strategies to slow the accelerated immune aging in this patient population.”
“These innovative approaches can shed light on mechanisms through which HIV damages or circumvents the immune system, and how these effects interact with those of drugs of abuse” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. “By learning more about these underlying processes, not only might this research slow the progression and transmission of HIV infection, but it could improve the long-term health of those already infected.”