Washington Post (08/12/91), P. A2
AIDS not only depletes the immune system but can also devastate the
nervous system. More than 60 percent of patients with AIDS develop
neurological symptoms and between 3 percent and 5 percent develop AIDS
dementia. These patients exhibit forgetfulness, slurred speech,
clumsiness, lack of concentration, and in more extreme cases, movement
disorder, incoherence, paranoia, and other psychological symptoms.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have discovered that cells
in the nervous system lack CD4, which is the only known receptor for HIV,
and have a "receptor site" where HIV plunges into nerve cells. The
researchers, led by Francisco Gonzalez-Scarano, discovered that a viral
molecule known as gp120 will bind to another molecule,
galactosyl-ceramide, that lives on the surface of oligodendrocytes and
Schwann cells of the nervous system. These cells produce myelin, which
insulates surrounding nerve cells. Any disruption of these cells could
yeild AIDS dementia, the researchers said.