icon-folder.gif   Conference Reports for NATAP  
  42nd ICAAC Meeting
San Diego, Sept 27-31, 2002
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Perspectives on hormonal, mitochondrial and metabolic changes
Reported by Mike Youle, MD, Royal Free Hospital, London
  The great white charger against lipid and metabolic abnormalities has to be atazanavir since all these studies to date have suggested this agent to have little of the negative profile that other protease inhibitors have. It remains to be seen how the lipodystrophy story pans out since no controlled data on this agent compared to others has yet been presented. At lot of the data that came out of this meeting has had previous airings notably at the Lipodystrophy workshop held during the previous week. However some new information made its' way into the Monday poster session.
Work by a Spanish group suggested that the level of free thyroid hormone levels built on earlier data that suggested that around 13% of HIV patients have some thyroid dysfunction [Grappin et al AIDS 2000,14:1070-1072]. In 202 subjects prospective assessments of thyroxine (FreeT4) the hormone that controls energy levels were performed as we as the hormone TSH that stimulates production [Abstract H-910]. There was tight correlation of T4 with CD4 count with abnormally low levels in 1.3% of subjects. Higher levels were associated with a lack of an AIDS diagnosis and in subjects without concurrent hepatitis with the TSH level also being predictive of the Free T4 levels. In addition further data supported the higher rate of dysfunction when Calza and co-workers assessed 84 subjects (49 on HAART) [Abstract H-1911]. In the HAART treated individuals 12.2% had low FreeT4 whilst none of the treatment naïve subjects did (p<0.05). In this study no association was seen with a particular antiretroviral (exposure >27 months), although reports have previously been made of hypothyroidism with efavirenz.
Another hormone that is poorly monitored in patients with HIV by many units and irregularly replaced is testosterone. Cohan and his group at Pacific Oaks in Los Angeles looked at the efficacy and utility of Androgel, a topical testosterone product in 30 hypogonadal subjects who were stable on intra-muscular injections of testosterone cypionate [Abstract H-1912]. After 8 weeks of topical therapy quality of life assessments showed a 10% improvement in physical and emotional well being as well as more stable serum levels of testosterone as well as greater patient acceptability.
Continuing on the hormonal trail, two abstracts further evaluated the aspects of human growth Hormone (HGH) in childhood development and HIV related lipodystrophy. Ezeanolue and colleagues described 3 African-American children in whom growth failure was identified, 2 HIV+ and one HIV- [Abstract H-1913]. They also had HGH deficiency and ILGF-1 levels below normal, an uncommon condition. On MRI their pituitary glands were small but with exogenous HGH they have regained their growth curves. The authors mused on the link between this phenomenon and the exposure to nucleoside analogues since their mothers had all been exposed to AZT during pregnancy. Moyle reported the effect of maintenance low-dose alternate day therapy with HGH used to treat lipodystrophy in 12 subjects who were given 4mg/kg daily for twelve weeks followed by a blinded phase of placebo, alternate day or twice weekly 1mg/kg doses [Abstract H-1935]. The sustained responses over 12 weeks of higher dose were lost on placebo and both fat free mass and visceral adipose tissue gains were maintained on the alternate day dosing.
New fill is a physical intervention involving injections of polylactic acid into the face to correct areas of subcutaneous fat loss [Abstract H-1934]. Developed in France it has gained popularity in Europe but has been effectively banned in the USA, a source of some consternation. In a small study of this approach 30 patients were randomised to immediate injections or delayed treatment. Self-perception, visual analogue scores of self assessed appearance and standard depression tools all showed a benefit for the immediate treatment group, which was sustained through 24 weeks. This further confirmed previous work from France on the acceptability of this intervention for facial wasting.
Thromboembolic complications are one of the least understood adverse events in HIV. It has become increasingly obvious that clotting disorders, such as protein S deficiency and embolic events, especially deep-vein thromboses are common in HIV disease, and not all attributable to long flights across the Atlantic. In one study presented 25 subjects without haemophilia and on PI based regimens were assessed for a wide range of markers of coagulation [Abstract H-1937]. Contrary to published reports these subjects showed increases in circulating anticoagulants although the thrombin time was significantly reduced after one month (p<0.05). Many of those with reported episodes have been on nucleoside analogues for a long period so further studies where the classes are distinguished may added to the knowledge base concerning these problems.
Conflicts in Findings in Mitochondrial Studies
There were a few further titbits of data on mitochondrial changes occurring under different treatment regimens. McComsy and her co-workers presented a phase IV open-label switch study from stavudine to zidovudine or abacavir (if zidovudine experienced), the TARHEEL trial [Abstract H-1929]. One hundred and eighteen subjects were enrolled of whom 86 switched to abacavir. Using DEXA whole body scans and single slice CT scans both increased limb fat (35% in the arms and 12% in the legs) as well as a slight reduction in visceral fat (2%) with an improvement in truncal subcutaneous fat of 4% (p<0.001). Viral suppression was reasonably well maintained with 87% <50 copies/mL by week 48. Sixteen subjects had elevated lactate at baseline which normalised (10 subjects had a treatment interruption before achieving this). The study appears to re-inforce the advantage of switching away from stavudine for safety reasons. A sub-study assessed mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA levels in 14 subjects who switched to abacavir and 2 who changed to zidovudine [H-1930. Both in muscle and fat, mtDNA content improved toward normal levels over the duration of the study in parallel with fat increases. No genomic deletions or rearrangements were noted in this small study.
Miura for the University of Tokyo in Japan also undertook a study of mtDNA content in 288 samples extracted from PBMCs (blood cells, not fat tissue) taken from 46 HIV positive individuals, 13 of who were currently not on antiretrovirals and compared them with 11 healthy volunteers. MtDNA content was reduced in untreated HIV positives compared to controls (p=0.0012 and had a positive inverse correlation with T4 count (p=0.028) and a negative one with viral load (p=0.017). In the subjects who had remained untreated throughout, their mtDNA levels did not change but in those who had commenced therapy with various regimens which contained dual nucleoside analogues (mainly AZT/3TC or d4T/3TC) there was consistent rise in mtDNA levels towards those of the control subjects. The subjects who received AZT/ddC showed as further decline. This study suggests that their may be conflicting alterations in mitochondrial function under antiretroviral therapy with an improvement mediated by increase in immune function perhaps which then is abrogated perhaps by a direct effect of the therapy on mitochondrial enzymes. Clearly much more work needs to be done, both in the laboratory and the clinic and conclusions should not be made in haste.