BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Researchers at the University at Buffalo have
presented the first evidence that the addictive drug
methamphetamine, or meth, also commonly known as "speed" or
"crystal," increases production of a docking protein that promotes
the spread of the HIV-1 virus in infected users.
The investigators found that meth increases expression of a
receptor called DC-SIGN, a "virus-attachment factor," allowing more
of the virus to invade the immune system.
"This finding shows that using meth is doubly dangerous," said
Madhavan P.N. Nair, Ph.D., first author on the study, published in
the online version of the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology. The
study will appear in print in the September issue of the
"Meth reduces inhibitions, thus increasing the likelihood of
risky sexual behavior and the potential to introduce the virus into
the body, and at the same time allows more virus to get into the
cell," said Nair, professor of medicine and a specialist in
immunology in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical
His research centers on dendritic cells, which serve as the
first line of defense again pathogens, and two receptors on these
cells -- HIV binding/attachment receptors (DC-SIGN) and the
meth-specific dopamine receptor. Dendritic cells overloaded with
virus due to the action of methamphetamine can overwhelm the T
cells, the major target of HIV, and disrupt the immune response,
promoting HIV infection.
"Now that we have identified the target receptor, we can develop
ways to block that receptor and decrease the viral spread," said
Nair. "We have to approach this disease from as many different
perspectives as possible.
"If we could prevent the upregulation of the meth-specific
dopamine receptor by blocking it, we may be able to prevent the
interaction of meth with its specific receptors, thereby inhibiting
the virus attachment receptor," said Nair.
"Right now, we don't know how the virus-attachment receptor and
meth-specific receptors interact with each other, leading to the
progression of HIV disease in meth-using HIV-infected subjects.
That is the next question we want to answer.
"Since meth mediates its effects through interacting with
dopamine receptors present on the cells, and meth increases
DC-SIGN, which are the HIV attachment receptors, use of dopamine
receptor blockers during HIV infection in meth users could be
beneficial therapeutically to reduce HIV infection in these
high-risk populations," Nair said.
Additional researchers on the publication, all from the UB
Department of Medicine, are Supriya Mahajan, Ph.D., research
assistant professor; Donald Sykes, Ph.D., research associate
professor; Meghana V. Bapardekar, Ph.D., postdoctoral associate,
and Jessica L. Reynolds, Ph.D., research assistant professor.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the
State University of New York. The School of Medicine and Biomedical
Sciences is one of five schools that constitute UB's Academic