Having HIV — or getting treatment for it — speeds up the aging process by about five years, on average, scientists report in a new study.
The findings, published in the journal Molecular Cell, fit with what doctors have seen in clinics: HIV-positive people tend to get hit earlier in life with age-related diseases, such as osteoporosis, heart disease and dementia.
But the study also opens up the possibility of addressing a broader question: How to measure a disease's impact on aging.
"We all know that some people appear to age faster than others," says Trey Ideker, a biologist at the University of California, San Diego, who co-led the study. "There are external signs of aging, like gray hair and wrinkles. But the inside of our bodies also show signs."
One of those signals is hidden in our genomes — not the genetic code itself but how the genome is decorated.