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Xuesong Chen
Xuesong Chen

UND professors get $1.6 million for HIV study

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news Grand Forks, 58203

Grand Forks North Dakota 375 2nd Ave. N. 58203

Two UND professors have received a $1.6 million federal grant to continue their study of dementia and learning problems that sometimes come with HIV/AIDS, the university said Friday.

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Jonathan Geiger and Xuesong Chen, both in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, will use the money to examine how the virus affects calcium levels within brain cells that may explain the disorders.

About half of all people with HIV/AIDS have symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease, according to Geiger.

The five-year grant came from the National Institutes of Health. According to Malak Kotb, chairman of the med school’s Department of Basic Sciences, only one in 10 requests for such grants currently get funding.

The university said Geiger’s lab has studied mental disorders associated with HIV-1, the most common variant of the virus, for more than 20 years. His team is focusing on levels of calcium, which helps brain cells transmit signals to one another.

Geiger said in a news release that his team had earlier shown that a protein in HIV-1 causes a release of stored-up calcium within brain cells, which can kill the cells. But now, he said, the team is finding that there are other mechanisms causing that to happen.

NIH is also providing other funding to Geiger’s lab for research into neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases, multiple sclerosis and seizures. 

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