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Biotech Medicine

Gene Therapy May Protect Against Flu 72

Posted by samzenpus
from the shields-up dept.
sciencehabit writes "In 2009, a global collaboration of scientists, public health agencies, and companies raced to make a vaccine against a pandemic influenza virus, but most of it wasn't ready until the pandemic had peaked. Now, researchers have come up with an alternative, faster strategy for when a pandemic influenza virus surfaces: Just squirt genes for the protective antibodies into people's noses. The method—which borrows ideas from both gene therapy and vaccination, but is neither—protects mice against a wide range of flu viruses in a new study."
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Gene Therapy May Protect Against Flu

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  • meh (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by larry bagina (561269)
    let me know when gene therapy lets me shoot bees out of my arms.
    • Move next door to a nuclear reactor [hey, land will be CHEAP], and start raising bee's.

      It worked for Peter Parker.

  • by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @09:09PM (#43856703)

    Some radical environmentalist person on their online dating profile writes "Genetically modified people need not apply."

    • by gnoshi (314933) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @09:16PM (#43856745)

      That's ok, for two reasons:
      1. The 'gene modification' disappears over time
      2. Who here would want to date someone that boring anyway?

      • by iggymanz (596061)

        boring women that can suck and fuck well turn me on

      • Boring? Extremists aren't usually "boring." Annoying, dangerous, holier-than-thou, scary, offensive, disgusting, disturbing, sometimes. Talking to someone who is deeply opposed to biological research, even the biological research that I do, is likely to be less boring than someone who has strong opinions about Kim Kardashian in the latest Tyler Perry movie, but no opinion on genetic modification.

        That said, I doubt such a relationship would last long, but "boring" probably wouldn't describe it.
    • What's wrong with that? There are no laws against it. We pure humans have to defend ourselves against the creeping normalization of genetically modified organisms. Don't eat them, don't deal with them, and especially don't date them.
  • by houbou (1097327) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @09:16PM (#43856747) Journal
    nano-tech and germ warfare become sophisticated enough that we will have millions of little nanobots our bloodstream which will provide the coverage necessary to deal with anything which our immune system isn't able to. This of course will be designed in such a way that you will have to 're-stock' your nanobots at certain determined intervals, because Big Pharma isn't going to design any permanent solution, or at least, will not be marketing any permanent solution at first, for we all know that the money is made through the sales of medications and prescriptions, not in curing any diseases.
    • If you don't exercise your immune system, you lose it.

    • Other countries though are working on more persistent systems. The holy grail is to encode how to make the nanobot into your DNA. That way the fix would be permanent and inheritable. We are still a good ways off on that but making progress.

      The USA is going to have to adopt better medical standards or they will be left far behind as Canada, Europe and other socialized medical care countries largely get rid of their medical costs.

      Ideal would be if you could make the system sexually transmitted also. It would

      • But if it was sexually transmitted to an unknowing new host... That new host at some point might be tested by pirate gene police... Creating a legal threat to this new host that they now belong to umbrella corp... Aka big Mons...tana... Yes... I'm talking about the State........ Not some company with more lawyers and secret police then researchers...

      • by houbou (1097327)
        well, a human is just a biological machine, so who knows.. maybe we just need to do this to 'fix' ourselves! :)
    • > This of course will be designed in such a way that you will have to 're-stock' your nanobots at certain determined intervals, because Big Pharma isn't going to design any permanent solution...

      What a conspiracy nut nonsense!
      I mean, it's like we always needed to buy an up to date antivirus to avoid our PCs being attacked... oh wait...

    • because Big Pharma isn't going to design any permanent solution, or at least, will not be marketing any permanent solution at first, for we all know that the money is made through the sales of medications and prescriptions, not in curing any diseases.

      Fortunately, Big Pharma has never been essential to making cures to diseases. Government grants to basic biology is the driving force there.

      Also, this is remarkably cynical about technology which hasn't even been invented yet. The outcomes of technology are nearly impossible to predict even if you put more thought into it than "pharmecutical companies are greedy."

    • nano-tech and germ warfare become sophisticated enough that we will have millions of little nanobots our bloodstream which will provide the coverage necessary to deal with anything which our immune system isn't able to. This of course will be designed in such a way that you will have to 're-stock' your nanobots at certain determined intervals, because Big Pharma isn't going to design any permanent solution, or at least, will not be marketing any permanent solution at first, for we all know that the money is made through the sales of medications and prescriptions, not in curing any diseases.

      This the kind of paranoia that is along the lines of "Cars that could get 100 miles to a gallon of water were available in the 1970s, but the Big Three bought them up and destroyed the information". I will tell you why I don't agree with you. It seems to me as a general observer that drug patents are not subject to the kind of "minor change = new patent" nonsense that is destroying the software industry. If this kind of thing was common, believe me, drugs like minoxidil would be covered under some kind o

  • Good. For 3 months. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gnoshi (314933) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @09:17PM (#43856755)

    It isn't quite as simple as 'squirt genes for the protective antibodies into people's noses'.
    It is 'squirt a non-replicating virus into people's noses, so the virus can stick the DNA for the protective antibodies into cells'.

    It's a pretty good trick. The cells will start producing the antibody, but they will not pass this property on to subsequent cell generations. That means there is a pretty limited lifespan.
    That can make it really good for pandemics, especially if it is fast to generate. However, for longer-term protection you really still need vaccines.

    • unless its "Sorry, the genes we squirted in your nose were defective, you now have a malignant tumour"

      • by gnoshi (314933) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @09:45PM (#43856933)

        That's mostly a risk if you're using a virus vector which integrates the DNA into an existing chromosome (which this one doesn't, I believe), AND you can't control the site of insertion. That is, unless the specific gene (in this case, the antibody gene) itself can cause a persistent change in the function of the cell - maybe causing the body to produce a compound which itself promotes cell growth or the like. (That's well outside my area of expertise.)

        The great thing about inserting into an existing chromosome (which this does not do) is that then cell replication *does* propagate the gene. The downside is the risk of incorrect insertion which can lead to cancer, among other things.

  • by GenieGenieGenie (942725) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @09:20PM (#43856771)

    This is "squirt AAV" or Adeno-Associated Virus, or better - rAAV for recombinant. The virus does what viruses do and delivers the genes encoding your gene of interest, in this case a gene encoding a broad antibody that is effective against many different flu virus strains.

    This is a big difference, especially if you're trying to sell it out to Average Joe and his mother in law. "Here, let me just squirt this genetically engineered virus into your nose for a second...".

    One more thing I don't get - why are they reporting a 2011 paper today?

    • One more thing I don't get - why are they reporting a 2011 paper today?

      Ehh, It's Slashdot.

  • Any day soon we'll have $RANDOM TERRORISTS running around with little bottles of nasal-spray, each encoded to INFECT $ONE SINGLE PERSON with an insanely specific , desperately infectious, 100% fatal disease.
    • ...in a world where grey goo and mutant GMO crops fight over the last remains of human civilization.

      I got dibs on the movie rights!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is cool and probably an idea that's occurred to lots of people that work with viral vectors etc., but

    (1) making and isolating monoclonal antibodies
    (2) making specific (=target one thing) antibodies that work the way you want them to, including a demonstrated lack of toxicity in most people
    (3) making new ones every time a new sort of killer flu shows up
    (4) distributing the vaccine quickly
    (5) a crap*ton of other stuff because biology is annoying

    are some reasons this isn't done already. It's also impossib

    • by Anonymous Coward

      6) Reason we dont have good Abs to flu is that flu is good at mimicking endogenous epitopes for its important structures. (translated: An effective general antibody will probably lead the body to attack the human's own cells as well.)

  • companies raced to make a vaccine against a pandemic influenza virus, but most of the uncontaminated [bloomberg.com] vaccine wasn't ready until the pandemic had peaked

    Fixed that for you.

  • Cough, cough, ca, ca, ba brains brains brains...
  • For a while at least it might protect people but, being a living organism with a mandate to survive, the virus will evolve a way around genetic therapy too. Why not meet nature halfway instead? I'll bet it would accept survival if humans would accept a day or two of the sniffles.

    • by gnoshi (314933)

      Because the virus can't actually reproduce itself, it is limited (at best) to evolving using 'genetic shift' where a virus swaps genetic material with another virus in the cell. However, genetic shift is limited to very similar viruses. For example, genetic shift leads to a new flu virus forming where two other flu viruses infect the same cell. In the case of this virus (which as GenieGenieGenie pointed out is an Adeno-Associated Virus) the wild-type isn't actually dangerous to my limited knowledge.

    • by TheLink (130905)
      In which case a possible long term solution is immediate full quarantine on detection or suspicion of infection.

      Then the virus would have to evolve to either:
      a) stop producing such noticeable symptoms (e.g. the infected won't feel as sick)
      or
      b) replicate on some other species as a reservoir (but if it stops reproducing effectively in our species, it may completely move to the other species).

      Quarantine will work quite well for most infectious diseases. The problem is in many countries people are not discourag
      • by EzInKy (115248)

        So you would force the virus into a MAD situation rather than face a runny nose for a day or two? I agree that policies encouraging people to work when they are sick are stupid, my employer just got took over by one. Still, the virus just wants to live the same as the human. Threatening it with destruction only encourages it to evolve to destruct.

        • by TheLink (130905)
          How would it force the virus to a MAD situation? If the virus kills the host too fast it will not spread as well.

          Don't anthropomorphize viruses and use that to predict their behaviour. Viruses don't think the way humans do.
  • I've always wondered if a simple roman coding of the genetic code (just a mapping of the genetic letters) could make us immune to viruses. After all, they use genetic code to override our instructions, if they are scrambled it won't work any more, i.e. they wont't be able to reproduce..

    • by gsiarny (1831256)

      Do you mean remapping each of the codons to a different amino acid? How would this be possible? Once you move beyond the schematic idea of "scrambling the letters," how would this be "simple"? The amount of synthetic biochemistry would be mind-boggling.

      Completely changing the orthography of the English language and republishing everything that has ever been printed in English would be a walk in the park compared to this.

      • by Mr2cents (323101)

        Oh, I didn't mean it would be simple, I meant: (simple roman coding), as in the easiest encryption there is.
        I was wondering about it, because:
        - printing genes is already possible. With advancements in this field, it's not unthinkable that (many years from now) an entire genome could be printed
        - the translation to proteins is, as far as I understand, established by "translation molecules" that bind to three particular letters
        - if you change the DNA, and change the corresponding "translation molecules", the

    • by TheLink (130905)

      Your cells won't work anymore either.

      The DNA/RNA is often used to make proteins. Different code = different or no protein.

      See: http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/begin/dna/transcribe/ [utah.edu]

    • If I remember rightly, a character does something similar in Greg Egan's Distress [amazon.co.uk]. I forget the details, but it doesn't end well for him.
  • They almost have a universal flu vaccine that will last as long as an MMR. I expect the Flu vaccine by the end of this decade to be something you get when you are three and then you're done until booster time.

  • by kilodelta (843627) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @01:07PM (#43863391) Homepage
    I've known about this for a year or so. Friend of mine is a scientist working on testing cancer treatments using rats and mice.

    She told me they introduce the genetic changes mostly through those adeno viruses. But this is pretty cool - you could have complete herd immunity in something you could buy over the counter.
  • I though antibody production was lymphocyte B cell job. TFA suggests that any type of cell will produce antibodies by just pushing the appropriate DNA. Is it that simple? Why do we have differentiated lymphocyte B cell then?

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