Inflammation, Aging, Microbes, and Obstructive Lung Disease (I AM OLD) Study

Investigator: Laurence Huang, MD
Sponsor: NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Location(s): Uganda


 HIV-infected persons are at an increased risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. This proposal will explore potential mechanisms responsible for the development and progression of COPD in HIV- infected persons using a cohort of individuals who appear to be at an increased risk of COPD, namely individuals who experience one or more episodes of pneumonia. The proposed studies on HIV-infected persons recovered from pneumonia have the potential for advancing our knowledge of HIV's role in the development of COPD and identifying new targets for prevention and treatment.

COPD is an HIV-associated lung disease and a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. The mechanisms underlying HIV-associated COPD (HIV+COPD) are incompletely understood but HIV-specific or HIV-enhanced factors have been suggested as a substantial proportion of HIV+COPD occur in non-smokers and the disease typically develops at an earlier age than COPD in HIV-uninfected individuals. Our study will investigate a wide- range of potential mechanisms and a comprehensive set of biomarkers. We will use our IHOP cohort composed of HIV+ subjects who have recovered from pneumonia as studies indicate that these patients are at an especially high-risk for a greater decline in lung function and COPD. Our central hypothesis is that systemic immune activation and inflammation and functional PBMC defects characterized by shortened telomeres contribute to a greater decline in lung function in HIV+ individuals, and that microbial translocation may contribute to this process. Our preliminary data demonstrate a strong trend for shortened PBMC telomere length and elevated plasma IL-6 levels to be associated with COPD in our IHOP cohort.
Aim 1: To test the hypothesis that short telomere length and/or low telomere length/telomerase activity (TL/TA) ratio in PBMCs and BAL are associated with an increased prevalence of COPD.
Aim 2: To test the hypothesis that selected markers of immune activation and inflammation in plasma and BAL are associated with an increased prevalence of COPD.
Aim 3: To validate the markers identified in Aims 1 & 2 in an ongoing multicenter, prospective HIV+ cohort and to test the hypothesis that the identified markers are associated with a greater decline in lung function (FEV1 and FEV1/FVC) and, as secondary aims, with a greater decline in DLco and development of COPD.
Aims 1 & 2 will leverage the existing San Francisco IHOP cohort of >300 HIV+ subjects. We will conduct a cross-sectional, nested case-control study of 70 subjects with COPD and 140 subjects without COPD and analyze banked blood from an outpatient study visit for telomere length, TL/TA, and 12 markers of immune activation and inflammation, selected for their association with COPD in HIV- uninfected populations. We will investigate associations with HIV+COPD, adjusting for age, sex, and smoking and for multiple comparisons, and derive a set of candidate biomarkers to validate prospectively. As a sub-aim, we will also analyze these markers in BAL and compare them to blood from 50 HIV+ IHOP subjects with and without COPD undergoing serial bronchoscopies for an IHOP study. Aim 3 will use the ongoing IHOP cohorts in San Francisco, Seattle, and Kampala, Uganda. We will conduct a longitudinal cohort study of 600 HIV+ subjects recovered from pneumonia and analyze the markers identified in Aims 1 & 2 beginning >3 months after completion of pneumonia treatment (baseline) and then annually until study completion and correlate these measurements with lung function tests and chest CT performed at the same time-points, strengthening the causal inferences in Aims 1 & 2 and setting the foundation for future trials of therapeutic interventions.