Pathomechanisms of HIV-Associated Cerebral Small Vessel Disease: A Comprehensive Clinical and Neuroimaging Protocol and Analysis Pipeline

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Frontiers in Neurology






cerebral small vessel disease; HIV; image processing pipeline; MRI; neuroinflammation; vascular health


Rationale: We provide an in-depth description of a comprehensive clinical, immunological, and neuroimaging study that includes a full image processing pipeline. This approach, although implemented in HIV infected individuals, can be used in the general population to assess cerebrovascular health. Aims: In this longitudinal study, we seek to determine the effects of neuroinflammation due to HIV-1 infection on the pathomechanisms of cerebral small vessel disease (CSVD). The study focuses on the interaction of activated platelets, pro-inflammatory monocytes and endothelial cells and their impact on the neurovascular unit. The effects on the neurovascular unit are evaluated by a novel combination of imaging biomarkers. Sample Size: We will enroll 110 HIV-infected individuals on stable combination anti-retroviral therapy for at least three months and an equal number of age-matched controls. We anticipate a drop-out rate of 20%. Methods and Design: Subjects are followed for three years and evaluated by flow cytometric analysis of whole blood (to measure platelet activation, platelet monocyte complexes, and markers of monocyte activation), neuropsychological testing, and brain MRI at the baseline, 18- and 36-month time points. MRI imaging follows the recommended clinical small vessel imaging standards and adds several advanced sequences to obtain quantitative assessments of brain tissues including white matter microstructure, tissue susceptibility, and blood perfusion. Discussion: The study provides further understanding of the underlying mechanisms of CSVD in chronic inflammatory disorders such as HIV infection. The longitudinal study design and comprehensive approach allows the investigation of quantitative changes in imaging metrics and their impact on cognitive performance.