OXFORD, Miss. (WJTV) – University of Mississippi researchers are working to develop a novel treatment for the neurological complications of HIV (neuro-HIV).

According to the university, the National Institutes of Health awarded a five-year grant to Eden Tanner, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Jason Paris, research associate professor of pharmacology, to support this work. The two received $436,000 for the first year of the project.

“Retroviral therapies can stop the virus from being replicated in the rest of the body, but we can’t get those drugs into the brain in therapeutic concentrations – essentially, this virus goes unimpeded into the brain. This causes worsening neurological deficits and affects a large percentage of the patient population. Currently, there’s nothing we can do for it,” said Tanner.

Tanner’s lab uses a method that allows nanoparticles to attach on red blood cells. Once the red blood cells reach the brain, the nanoparticles are programmed to self-destruct and release a drug.

According to the university, planned studies, in collaboration with Tulane University and its National Primate Research Center, will fund the safety and testing that aims to demonstrate the materials are not harmful.