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Anti-HIV Virus Developed 750

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the got-the-name-all-over-it dept.
liam193 writes "Wired News is reporting that Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory may have developed a virus that fights the HIV virus. According to the article, 'It took Adam Arkin and David Schaffer just $200,000 and a grad student to develop a potential treatment for AIDS. And that scares them.'"
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Anti-HIV Virus Developed

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  • by tverbeek (457094) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:38PM (#9145225) Homepage
    [the experimental treatment] is a virus that can be spread by having sex, just like HIV

    If this proves effective, I can anticipate people who'll get the treatment, then use that as another item on their list of "why you should have unsafe sex with me tonight". That may be a more entertaining way for more people to get "treated" than visiting their doctors, but HIV isn't the only nasty little bugger out there. We could end up with an epidemic of hepatitis and other STDs.

    "I can't say now it won't make it worse," Arkin said.

    • by mcspock (252093) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:41PM (#9145262)
      No doubt they could invent an anti-hepatitis/herpes/etc virus too.

      But here's what i've always been curious about - what they invented a STD that made your penis longer, or one that made your breasts larger (depending on gender). This really could be the wave of the future - certain people becoming sexually appealing due to designer viruses they carry.
      • by Spoing (152917) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @07:00PM (#9145501) Homepage
        1. But here's what i've always been curious about - what they invented a STD that made your penis longer, or one that made your breasts larger (depending on gender).

        I neither want larger breasts or for my SO to devlop a penis of ANY size. Takes the romance out of it.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2004 @07:11PM (#9145612)
          I neither want larger breasts or for my SO to devlop a penis of ANY size.

          Yeah, a computer with a penis would be rather silly.
        • by register_ax (695577) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @07:12PM (#9145620) Journal
          I neither want larger breasts or for my SO to devlop a penis of ANY size. Takes the romance out of it.
          but your woman's clitoris is a penis ... just pea-sized ... but that is a size, regardless of however you try twisting your words around now.

          if she had had a y chromosome instead, the hole would have been covered by a sac and that clit lengthened. in fact, as an embryo in the pouch, you had a clitoris yourself. you can't touch the clit directly just as it is painful to rub the "head" of a man if he is not aroused. take some notes, it's all psychological behaviour that is making you want to fuck your SO. Otherwise you are both basically the same with only a few freak mutations that happen to work in your favor.

    • If this proves effective, I can anticipate people who'll get the treatment, then use that as another item on their list of "why you should have unsafe sex with me tonight".

      There've been a few cases of a doctor using the "I've been injected with the cure for <insert fictional disease that patient supposedly has> and the only way for you to get it is to have sex with me" line. This may be the first time that it's true!
    • Hepatitis, schmepatits. I can't imagine what this world will be like when having unprotected sex with multiple partners may mean that you get a life-saving virus! Count me in!
    • by thatguywhoiam (524290) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:45PM (#9145316)
      Score: -1, Unbelievably Cynical
    • by Pyro226 (715818) <Pyro226 AT hotmail DOT com> on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:47PM (#9145341) Journal
      We could end up with an epidemic of hepatitis and other STDs.

      That may be true, but I support any technology that makes it easier for slashdoters to get laid.

      In all seriousness though, this is very very cool. Anyone interested in the original HIV genome (it's like sourcecode) can find it here. [nih.gov]

    • by spiritraveller (641174) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @07:58PM (#9146103)
      I can anticipate people who'll get the treatment, then use that as another item on their list of "why you should have unsafe sex with me tonight".

      Eh, no.

      The virus that they have invented can only survive if the HIV virus is present in the body. If you have no HIV in your body the "good" virus will simply die out.

      "Hey baby, I have HIV, but don't worry, I also have the good virus." ... Somehow I don't think that line will get you laid.

    • by cshark (673578) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @09:14PM (#9146668)
      Could be.
      But they also said that it there's no garauntee that it won't combine itself with HIV and create something magnatudes worse.

      They are essentially the same basic virus, just with the active bits changed. A new mutant virus is not just possible, but likely. I would hold off and watch this new treatment very closely... if I had any reason to.
  • I volunteer (Score:5, Funny)

    by kpansky (577361) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:39PM (#9145245)
    Where can I get signed up to be "infected" and singlehandedly propagate the cure to the world's population?
    • by Snarph (596331) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:43PM (#9145278)
      Where can I get signed up to be "infected" and singlehandedly propagate the cure to the world's population?
      Here's a hint: you won't be using your hands.
      ...and I hope you swing both ways, because that's what it'll take.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:44PM (#9145300)
      If you pause to consider that one fourth of the world is obese [canada.com], that might not be as pleasant a job as you imagine.
      • by Jorkapp (684095) <jorkappNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Thursday May 13, 2004 @07:14PM (#9145634)
        I see a money making angle to that...

        Obligatory Family Guy Quote
        [Peter] Ah Jeez, where am I gonna get $50000?
        [Quagmire] Well, you could whore yourself out to 1000 fat chicks for $50 each - or 50 really fat chicks for $1000 a piece!
        * Everyone looks a Quagmire
        [Quagmire] Hey. Don't look at me like that. Fat chicks need love too. They just gotta pay for it.

        ...Later...

        [Sailor - All Peg arms and legs] (Talking about the $50000 reward to catch a fish named "Daggermouth") I saw Daggermouth. Sure. I may have been really tired, and my eyes were sore from rubbing them too much, and I was swimming in a pool with too much chlorine in it, and it was the hour my glasses were at lenscrafters, but I swear it was him...
        Or of course, you could just whore yourself out to 1000 fat chicks...
        [Quagmire] (Interrupting) No we covered that already.
    • by somethinghollow (530478) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:58PM (#9145476) Homepage Journal
      just $200,000 and a grad student

      Too late, man. What do you think they needed the grad student for?
  • Awesome (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mphase (644838) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:39PM (#9145246) Homepage
    A virus which kicks the other ones ass and then take up patrol duty. "Arkin and his colleagues have designed a potential AIDS treatment that would remain with the patient as long as he or she has HIV, meaning it would prevent AIDS from arising even in patients who otherwise would have developed the disease after a decade of latency" And not only that but they made it out of the HIV virus, damn fine work.
  • Shouldn't Scare (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Prince Vegeta SSJ4 (718736) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:40PM (#9145250)
    'It took Adam Arkin and David Schaffer just $200,000 and a grad student to develop a potential treatment for AIDS. And that scares them.'

    Why should this scare anybody? Alot of discoveries are just happenstance, or maybe it took somebody to think outside of the box, or maybe they are super geniuses [pioneernet.net]

    My point is, if you can call it that, is that it doesn't always take a 50 Billion dollar military grant to come up with something to change the world. Ask the guy that invented the wheel.

    • Re:Shouldn't Scare (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kpansky (577361) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:43PM (#9145282)
      Because if you can get a virus to do something it didn't do originally and easily modify it to do something else, that is very dangerous. Imaging common cold + ebola. A stretch, true, but something to think about.
      • Ebola-Cold. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Grendel Drago (41496) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:53PM (#9145425) Homepage
        Ebola is spread as easily as the common cold. What sort of properties would an Ebola/rhinovirus combination have that you're afraid of?

        The reason Ebola doesn't spread very far is because it has a short incubation period, and kills very quickly. The infected don't have much of a chance to transmit it outside of the local populace---an outbreak can be identified and contained.

        Contrast this with HIV, which has a tremendous incubation period, meaning that even though it's very difficult to transmit, it's spread terribly.

        --grendel drago
    • RTFA (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Pahalial (580781) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:46PM (#9145336)
      Okay, so it's ambiguous, but quickly browsing lower paragraphs shows they're scared by how easy it was to develop a virus, with a specific purpose/target to boot. As opposed to being scared because of the inefficiency of multinational research corps or whatever [that's more or less what I assumed at first as well].
      • Re:RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jetifi (188285) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @08:09PM (#9146185) Homepage

        I think what's scary is that they've developed a treatment that spreads itself just like a virus, along with HIV. What that means is that once it's in the wild, it's gonna spread like any other virus and, probably, mutate like any other virus.

        That's an ethical conundrum from hell - is it moral to infect people with a virus of unknown long-term effects that cures a known killer disease?

    • by Powerdog (106510) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:50PM (#9145364)
      My point is, if you can call it that, is that it doesn't always take a 50 Billion dollar military grant to come up with something to change the world. Ask the guy that invented the wheel.

      Adjusted for inflation back to 100000 B.C., the wheel cost $750 billion to develop.

      He was the Bill Ug of his day.

    • Re:Shouldn't Scare (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mr_Matt (225037) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:50PM (#9145372)


      Moreover, the article specifically mentions that the 'anti-HIV' virus is essentially a euphemism for gene therapy. Sure, it only takes $200k to solve the problem when you don't count the research dollars spent getting you to the point where 'viral' gene therapy is possible.


      Something about giants and shoulders comes to mind... :)

    • My point is, if you can call it that, is that it doesn't always take a 50 Billion dollar military grant to come up with something to change the world. Ask the guy that invented the wheel.

      Once you adjust for inflation, the committee that designed the original wheel for $47,000 Atlantean dollars cost a little over $73 Billion US dollars. Of course, they didn't even tip the waiter who read over their shoulder and suggested they use a circle instead of the original triangle shape.

      --
      Evan "It's True!"

    • Re:Shouldn't Scare (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Dr. Spork (142693) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @07:11PM (#9145616)
      There are a lot of fundamentalist religious groups in the world who would love to see a "super-AIDS" wipe out the homosexuals and scare the rest of us into monogamy or abstinence. If manipulating the virus genome is this cheap, and information is widely available, it's only a matter of time before someone tries it. I don't know if there have been studies done on how to infect large groups of people with HIV. One idea: kidnap some hosts, infect them, and when the virus spread is at its max (not long after infection), smear their blood on bomb shrapnel, etc. Gruesome, but cheap - and it sure would scare people. Or imagine a "suicide gigalo", much like a suicide bomber. Yuck. But there are terrible people in the world; just look at the pictures in the news!
  • Wait... (Score:5, Funny)

    by physicsphairy (720718) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:41PM (#9145254) Homepage
    Who's going to develop a virus to kill the virus that kills the HIV virus?
    • Re:Wait... (Score:3, Funny)

      by Vengeance (46019)
      And where are we going to get gorillas to kill THOSE viruses?
    • Re:Wait... (Score:5, Funny)

      by goldspider (445116) <ardrake79.gmail@com> on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:45PM (#9145318) Homepage
      Skinner: "Well, I was wrong; the anti-HIV virus is a godsend."
      Lisa: "But isn't that a bit shortsited? What happens when we're overrun by the anti-HIV virus?"
      Skinner: "No problem. We simply release wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They'll wipe out the the anti-HIV virus."
      Lisa: "But aren't the snakes even worse?"
      Skinner: "Yes, but we're prepared for that. We've lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat."
      Lisa: "But then we're stuck with gorillas!"
      Skinner: "No, that's the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death."

  • by OldBaldGuy (734575) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:41PM (#9145255)
    This is scary stuff. Not the limiting of HIV, but the fact that it passes itself along just like the real thing. All sorts of interesting payloads possible here.....
  • by D-Cypell (446534) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:41PM (#9145265)
    a virus that can be spread by having sex, just like HIV

    Dont worry guys... it will be available in tablet form soon...
  • Interesting... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chrispyman (710460) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:42PM (#9145274)
    It would seem that they hijack HIV and turn it into an anti-HIV virus. Though that might make it easier to spead the cure around, one can only wonder if there is the possibility for things to go wrong to create a super virus thats difficult if not impossible to stop...
  • by Maniakes (216039) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:43PM (#9145283) Journal
    It took Adam Arkin and David Schaffer just $200,000 and a grad student to develop a potential treatment for AIDS.

    Did they USE $200,000 and a grad student, or did they EXPEND $200,000 and a grad student? An important distinction, especially from the grad student's perspective.
  • Obvius (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Espectr0 (577637) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:43PM (#9145292) Journal
    Some viruses are indeed enemies of each other. I always thought that the only way to fight aids was to find a virus which didn't harm the human body but was lethal to HIV. Now let's hope there is an easier way to get the new virus inserted in the body and that there isn't any colateral damage
  • by k98sven (324383) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:44PM (#9145312) Journal
    Where's the beef?
    The facts: A pair of researchers have managed to adapt HIV to a virus which fights HIV. It's not their idea (as far as I can see), and so far they've only tested it in computer simulations (which are basically not to be trusted as a good model of the human immune system, trust me, I do computational biochem), also they've killed HIV in a petri dish.

    Killing HIV in a petri dish is not new, there's quite a few things that do that.

    I'm not dismissing the idea, but y'all better keep those champange bottles on ice for a few years until the in vivo studies have been conducted.
  • Really now... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rjstanford (69735) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:45PM (#9145317) Homepage Journal
    'It took Adam Arkin and David Schaffer just $200,000 and a grad student to develop a potential treatment for AIDS. And that scares them.'

    Developing a potential treatment for AIDS is, after all, relatively easy. Doing all of the studies necessary before releasing an engineered virus into the wild, now that's both difficult and expensive. Very difficult, and very expensive, in terms of highly dangerous controlled tests, especially over large amounts of time.
  • Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NanoGator (522640) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:48PM (#9145349) Homepage Journal
    "It took Adam Arkin and David Schaffer just $200,000 and a grad student to develop a potential treatment for AIDS. And that scares them"

    Maybe it's because I'm not medically inclined, but this doesn't scare me at all. (Assuming this reads like "It scares them that they were able to do it so cheaply with so few people")

    a.) Lots of research has already been done, it's unlikely that he had to start on square one. I don't think it's fair to assume that the money and time spent by other researchers didn't give this guy an advantage.

    b.) How do we know he didn't just have a great inspiration after watching other failures and take a gamble on it? I can't say I've kept up on this, but this is the first time I've heard of anybody trying to use a virus to kill a virus. (I've heard the theory, but I understood that there was concern over what happens to the new virus...)

    I don't think it's so shocking, but maybe those feelings are muted by the idea that maybe a lot of people in Africa will be able to look forward to a long healthy life.
  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:49PM (#9145358)
    The article gives no reason for the scientists' confidence that mutations of HIV will not outflank this new virus. Plus, as we know, if this is an HIV-like virus itself, it's sure to mutate as well.

    $200K is not enough to test that mutations will be stopped. And if HIV didn't mutate so tenaciously, we would have had a cure years ago.

    Remember the "vaccine" based on a "crippled" HIV virus unable to cause the disease. Test it on monkeys and give it some time, and it turns out it "uncripples" itself by mutation once in a while. Ooops! Good thing that never made it to human trials! HIV sucks.

    Just because a virus is artificial doesn't mean it's going to be controllable.

  • by Embedded Geek (532893) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:50PM (#9145370) Homepage
    It took Adam Arkin and David Schaffer just $200,000 and a grad student...

    Since no animal testing was mentioned, I would like to extend my condolences to the grad student's family. It may seem like a great sacrifice, but just think of all the data gathered from the autopsy.

  • by Karpe (1147) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:50PM (#9145375) Homepage
    Heroin [wikipedia.org] that, by the time it was discovered, was considered as an 'heroic' non-additive substitute for morphine and medication.
  • Why is this scary? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PureFiction (10256) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:51PM (#9145400)
    Anyone remember the super lethal smallpox virus [msn.com]?

    Transmissible gene therapy has some awesome potential, and the fact that such limited resources could pull it off is all the more inredible.

    The flip side of this is of course the potential for insanely destructive devices [wired.com] in the hands of anyone with a decent budget and some technical bioengineering skill.

    Technological advances are going to drive the price point for this technology down ever further. In 10 years, should we be concerned if $5,000 in supplies and computing equipment allows this same feat to be accomplished?

    It's going to start getting very interesting as the decades roll by. The ever increasing and incredible capabilities that these technologies provide are a double edged sword. They will be used for great good, but you can be sure more malicious uses will also be employed...
  • Still isn't a cure (Score:3, Insightful)

    by secondsun (195377) <secondsun@gmail.com> on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:53PM (#9145421) Journal
    According to the article this is still not a cure for HIV since the virus will become less effective as the HIV infected cells begin to dwindle in numbers.

    So don't throw out the rubbers just yet.
  • by lazy_arabica (750133) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:53PM (#9145423) Homepage
    If I read well, the treatment is based on a tweaked HIV. What if the 'good' virus evolves and become another very offensive one ?
    Hey, I'm not kidding. One of the difficulties researchers encounter is the constantly-changing nature of HIV. I don't know if this a very trustable approach.
  • by hak1du (761835) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:55PM (#9145453) Journal
    So Arkin and Schaffer are instead calling the process "synthetic biology." Despite appearances, it's not an arbitrary term: The researchers are synthesizing biological elements into machines to do their bidding.

    Wow, some computer scientists discover biology and think they thought of things nobody ever thought of before. "Synthetic biology" is as old as molecular biology--that's what all those wonderful tools Arkin is playing around with were developed for. That's why he can buy the enzymes, chemicals, cell lines, DNA, and other components from dozens of vendors. Furthermore, computer scientists, mathematicians, physicists, and other non-biologists, have been looking at biological problems for decades, so crossing disciplines is hardly new.

    So, Arkin's general approach (as well as the general approach of the whole "synthetic biology" crowd) is nothing new. It is possible that he has come up with a specific new mechanism for interfering with HIV, but plenty of thought has gone into the careful design of similar schemes before and they have failed to work in humans.

    Arkin may or may not have done some decent science in this work. But it foremost sounds like an attempt to grab attention. And that isn't nice: it not just detracts from other good research, in the case of proclaiming an HIV cure, it has the potential to hurt people.
  • by Spudley (171066) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:56PM (#9145457) Homepage Journal
    'It took Adam Arkin and David Schaffer just $200,000 and a grad student to develop a potential treatment for AIDS.

    Two people and a grad student, eh? So the student doesn't get any credit.

    Sad.

  • Just to note (Score:5, Interesting)

    by perrin5 (38802) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @06:59PM (#9145492) Homepage
    if you were treated with this, you'd still be HIV positive. Sort of.

    This appears to insert itself into the HIV sequence, and add a gene that supresses other functions of the same sequence. In my mind this is closer to the treatment available for leprosy than an actual cure.

    In other words, if this became successful, people treated with it would most likely be safe from acquiring AIDS from their HIV infection, but would still be HIV positive. They should still not have sex with HIV negative people, to reduce the possiblity of re-infection and/or harm.

    It's much better than taking drug coctails to stay alive, though. A hell of a lot cheaper, too.
  • by gmuslera (3436) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @07:41PM (#9145931) Homepage Journal
    .. by now, with bagle, netsky and mydoom removing each other and doing its own harm, should be evident for everyone that using virus to clean virus is at the very least potentially dangerous.

    Worse than that, computer viruses don't evolve by themselves, but biological ones have that capability. A bad replication or mutation of that virus and we could have a new disease instead a new cure.

    In the other hand, some vaccines already uses somewhat disabled diseases to cure them. And worked, and the worst not happened. If we have the opportunity to eliminate a for sure killer disease risking a not so likely future new disease, maybe the risk worths it.

  • Preferable outcomes? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mister Black (265849) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @07:44PM (#9145959)
    Which option would/should we prefer:

    1) The HIV antivirus operates as specified. AIDS is inhibited from occurring, but the HIV virus is still present and may even spread freely now that the risk of AIDS is diminishing.

    2) The HIV antivirus is exceptionally lethal. Those that are HIV positive quickly die, but the HIV virus is kept from spreading and may eventually die out.
  • mutation? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by strider_starslayer (730294) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @07:45PM (#9145976)
    Even if this works 100%, isin't one of the reasons HIV is so hard to treat BECAUSE it's extremely mutative and because of this quickly adapts to any form of treatment- Coulden't introducing another variation of HIV into the bloodstream end up 'double-gunning' the test subject, as the 'bad HIV' mutates to be immune to the 'good HIV' and the 'good HIV' mutates to become bad for the 'host'?

    Now don't get me wrong- I see a lot of good in using more HIV to counter HIV- because of it's mutative abilities; if the 'good HIV' has been reconfigured to somehow prey on 'bad HIV' it will keep mutating in course to follow the 'bad HIV's mutations so that it will survive. However that said, I'm not sure it will allwase work that way, and only time will tell.
  • by oaklid (32718) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @08:10PM (#9146193) Homepage
    Norman Spinrad's 1995 novella, Journal of the Plague Years, describes this very thing. I wonder if the researchers were inspired by it?
  • AIDS in Africa (Score:5, Insightful)

    by trawg (308495) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @08:19PM (#9146256) Homepage
    I heard this scary story on the radio a couple of days ago - just dug up a quick Google news link [iol.co.za] which has some of the facts that I heard:
    "Aids is affecting the entire planet, but currently 70 percent of its victims die and are born in Africa," said the ministers from the Central African Republic, Congo, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Senegal, Sudan, Tanzania and Togo.


    "The epidemic cuts down as many human lifes as a world war."

    In sub-Saharan Africa around 26.6 million people were infected with HIV at the end of 2003, out of an estimated global tally of 40 million, according to United Nations estimates.
    I find it sad that the 'coalition against evil' doesn't think this is something that might be worth lending a hand on as well. I wonder what fraction of the military budget it would take to make a difference to the millions of people that are at risk in Africa?
  • by klui (457783) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @09:06PM (#9146604)
    It scares them because the pharmaceutical companies would want to kill them. Those guys have spent billions and haven't produced a cure. :)
  • by taltman (779617) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @09:20PM (#9146719)

    I work in the Arkin group [lbl.gov], and Leor is a friend of mine.

    Here is the reference and the PDF of the actual article that the research featured in the Wired report is based off of:

    PDF: http://tinyurl.com/yu5ur [tinyurl.com]

    Leor S. Weinberger, David V. Schaffer, Adam P. Arkin. "Theoretical Design of a Gene Therapy To Prevent AIDS but Not Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Infection". 2003. Journal of Virology. 77(18). 10028-10036.

    ---

    ~taltman

  • by Linuxathome (242573) on Friday May 14, 2004 @12:09AM (#9147806) Homepage Journal
    Just two comments (and a closing statement, LOL!):

    1. Just glancing at the article published under peer review (in Journal of Virology), one assumption that the authors made is that the model of virus dynamics in vivo is correct. Although it is the currently accepted model, it does not mean that it holds true -- I fear that a few more years of data will tell us truly if the mathematical model can be used, especially when pertaining to treatment via "anti-viral viruses."

    2. For it to work in vivo, the "anti-virus" has to replicate near those cells/tissues that is actively replicating HIV. In fact, it probably works best if the "anti-virus" can superinfect the same cells infected by HIV -- that's the way anti-sense RNA works, in other words anti-sense RNA needs to anneal with the sense RNA of HIV. The problem is, HIV has mechanisms to reduce superinfection (downregulation of coreceptor comes to mind). The more you have to add to the anti-virus to evade such obstacles, the more difficult you make it -- i.e. the bulkier the virus, viral fitness plummets.

    Only empirical studies in vivo will tell us if their treatment will work. As a grad student studying HIV, the news sounds exciting. But just like any "discoveries" made in this field, I have to take it with a grain of salt. Why? Well, think about the history of this epidemic and compare with other epidemics in modern history -- like polio and smallpox. What is taking so long for researchers to develop a vaccine with so much better technology than Jenner, Salk or Sabin ever had in their hands? The answer is in the virus itself, it has become so adept at evading the host immune system and usurping that system for its own end, that it is also destroying our body's chances of ever mounting a good enough response to keep it in check or eradicating it. I wonder if we ever will be able to develop a vaccine, and if we do, what will it take? More research into the biology of the virus? Or more research into our immune systems' biology? I personally think that studies in immunology is the key to answering this.
  • by Salis (52373) <howard.salisNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday May 14, 2004 @12:10AM (#9147808) Journal
    The idea is to create a retrovirus which will replicate in your cells wildly, creating numerous regulatory sites for HIV proteins that ultimately 'suck up' or titrate the HIV proteins out of solution. (This is from memory however, but I believe this is the only mechanism proposed.)

    By lowering the number of HIV proteins in solution, you make it more difficult for the HIV to replicate itself wildly and turn into AIDS. The term is 'lowering the setpoint' of HIV becoming AIDS. HIV is still there. It can still turn into AIDS. But the chances of it doing so are less likely, BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE.

    In fact, the most interesting part of the paper (to me), was that if the retrovirus vector is too efficient in killing HIV then the therapeutic vector loses its own mechanism of infection (ie. the HIV capsin proteins) because these capsin proteins are no longer being produced.

    It's a fantastic idea, but it's not a viable therapy. Yet. Using the same principles, it'll be possible to more directly kill HIV (in the future).

No amount of careful planning will ever replace dumb luck.

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