Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease patient Isidora Tomaz, 82, sits in an armchair in her house in Lisbon September 15, 2009. Several low income Portuguese families with Alzheimer's patients under their care are supported by Portugal's Alzheimer Association, a charity. Alzheimer Europe estimates the number of Alzheimer's patients in the European Union alone to surpass 7.0 million. [Representational image]Reuters

The advances which took place in the HIV treatment have been life-altering for the patients. New antiretroviral medications have been developed for improving the lives of the patients, but a study found that these may be neurodegenerative.

The anti-retroviral drugs are likely to trigger Alzheimer's disease (AD) which can be evident in forms of confusion, forgetfulness as well as changes in behaviour and motion, the study revealed.

A class of antiviral drugs protease inhibitors (PIs) is used in HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C medications, which can lead to the secretion of peptide beta amyloid -- usually linked to Alzheimer's, the study disclosed.

"Protease inhibitors are very effective antiviral therapies, but they do have inherent toxicities," senior author on the study, Kelly Jordan-Sciutto, Professor at University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, said in a statement.

It was found that the human and rodent brain cells were being protected by the inhibition of the enzyme BACE1. This hinted the researchers to produce a new drug which could trigger this mechanism and lower the damage in the neurons of patients undergoing antiretroviral therapies.

"Our findings may cause us to rethink how we're using these drugs and even consider developing an adjunctive therapy to reduce some of these negative effects," she added.

Two animal models were used by the researchers to figure out how neuronal damage was caused by the antiretroviral therapies; also, the role of BACE1 enzyme was determined in this study.

The cohort of researchers explored the impacts of inhibitors on both the animal models, which was followed by analysing the action mechanism taking place in the cells in a culture.