New supplemental award examines mitochondrial function and frailty development among people with and without HIV

MitochondriaThe Johns Hopkins Older Americans Independence Center (OAIC), a long-running NIH funded research program focused on frailty research, was recently awarded a supplemental grant to investigate the intersecting biological pathways that drive early onset of physical frailty in a subset of individuals living with and without HIV through the study of mitochondrial decline. Among people with HIV (PWH), frailty predicts mortality, comorbidities, and hospitalization, and is an important indicator of quality of life. The underlying mechanisms for frailty development are likely multifaceted, due in part to features of biological aging such as mitochondrial decline and chronic inflammation. A major driver of the aging process in PWH is mitochondrial damage, resulting from chronic HIV infection, chronic inflammation, and the effects of some antiretroviral therapies. However, the role of changes in mitochondrial function in the etiology of frailty among PWH remains unclear. Furthermore, each immune cell type may develop different metabolic adaptations in response to stress. The interplay between mitochondrial function and immune activation and senescence in the etiology of frailty development remains unclear.

Dr. Jing Sun is an Assistant Scientist with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Infectious Disease Epidemiology.  Dr. Sun is affiliated with:

Dr. Jing Sun

This supplemental award, led by Dr. Jing Sun (Epidemiology), with mentors and colleagues including Drs. Todd Brown (Endocrinology), Dan Arking (Genetic Medicine), Joseph Margolick (Molecular Microbiology and Immunology), Gregory Kirk (Infectious Disease Medicine), and Jeremy Walston (Geriatric Medicine), will evaluate the association of immune cell type-specific mitochondrial function measurements, including mitochondrial content, membrane potential, and superoxide, with HIV infection and frailty by leveraging longitudinal data, specimens, and infrastructure from two established HIV cohorts: 1) the AIDS Linked to the IntraVenous Experience cohort; and 2) the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study. These cohorts uniquely include PWH and comparable HIV uninfected adults.

Dr. Sun and the research team will pursue the following aims to accomplish these goals: (1) to characterize immune cell activation and senescence and cell type- specific mitochondrial function, stratified by HIV infection status; and (2) to assess the association between cell type-specific mitochondrial function and frailty during longitudinal follow-up among people with and without HIV. They will apply a novel machine learning approach to characterize the complex and high-dimensional biomarker data in immune aging and mitochondrial function to achieve these aims.  With expertise and resources from the OAIC, the current study will provide new understanding of the interplay between HIV infection, immune aging, and mitochondrial function in the etiology of frailty.

More information is available here: