Applications and limitations of inflammatory biomarkers for studies on neurocognitive impairment in HIV infection

Edana Cassol, Vikas Misra, Susan Morgello, Dana Gabuzda

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Despite reduced prevalence of severe forms of HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) on current antiretroviral therapy (ART) regimens, milder forms of neurocognitive impairment (NCI) remain prevalent in HIV-infected populations. These mild forms of HAND consist of subtypes, probably reflecting distinct, though possibly overlapping, pathophysiological mechanisms. Factors associated with HAND in HIV patients with prolonged viral suppression on ART include older age, low nadir CD4, active HCV co-infection, and cardiovascular risk factors, but underlying mechanisms and their relationship to innate immune activation, chronic inflammation, and other features of systemic disease are poorly understood. In this article, we discuss applications and limitations of plasma inflammatory biomarkers for studies on HAND in HIV patients on ART and describe an analysis pipeline to reduce common sources of noise and increase likelihood of identifying relevant inflammatory biomarkers. Clinical covariates and comorbidities that influence inflammatory biomarkers, such as aging, obesity, metabolic abnormalities, HCV co-infection, and substance abuse, are also reviewed. As an example for using this analytic pipeline, we present an exploratory study of 22 plasma inflammatory biomarkers (IFN-α 2b and -γ, 16 cytokines/chemokines, sIL-2R, sCD14, HA, and YKL-40) in a cohort of HIV-infected individuals with advanced disease, frequent HCV co-infection, and viral suppression on ART. The identification of inflammatory biomarkers associated with HAND in HIV+ patients on ART may be useful to distinguish between HAND subtypes with distinct pathophysiology, and is important for achieving a systems-level understanding of the biology of these disorders, developing effective therapies, and evaluating therapeutic outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1087-1097
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of NeuroImmune Pharmacology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • HCV
  • HIV
  • HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders
  • IL-6
  • Inflammatory biomarkers
  • Innate immune activation
  • Interferon-α


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