Researchers have identified an enzyme that is likely to lower the risk of heart related diseases caused by antiviral medicines used for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Approximately 37 million people are living with HIV, according to the World Health Organisation.
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Antiviral medications are used to control HIV and prevent its progression to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
“The use of antivirals in HIV patients is very important to control the virus, suppress symptoms and improve quality of life,” said lead author William Durante, professor at the University of Missouri in the US.
However, these antivirals are linked to the development of metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity, and they are also known to increase the risk of heart diseases.
The study, published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine, focused on protease inhibitors — a common antiviral used to treat HIV, which disrupts HIV’s ability to replicate and infect cells.
But, this inhibitor causes malfunctioning in the endothelial cells, which make up the inner lining of blood vessels, and can lead to cardiovascular disease.
Using a cell-based model of cultured human endothelial cells, the team increased the amount of the enzyme heme oxygenase-1, or HO-1 within the cells.
“Increasing the presence of HO-1 in our model before exposing it to a protease inhibitor allowed the medication to do its job without causing endothelial dysfunction,” Durante noted.
“HO-1 shows great promise as a defender of endothelial cells in patients being treated for HIV,” he added.
More research is needed to verify that HO-1 will prevent endothelial cell dysfunction with all antiviral medications, the researchers maintained.