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Biotech Medicine

Dormant Virus Wakes Up In Some Patients With Lou Gehrig's Disease 47

MTorrice writes: Our chromosomes hold a partial record of prehistoric viral infections: About 8% of our genomes come from DNA that viruses incorporated into the cells of our ancestors. Over many millennia, these viral genes have accumulated mutations rendering them mostly dormant. But one of these viruses can reawaken in some patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive muscle wasting disease commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. A new study demonstrates that this so-called endogenous retrovirus can damage neurons, possibly contributing to the neurodegeneration seen in the disease. The findings raise the possibility that antiretroviral drugs, similar to those used to treat HIV, could slow the progression of ALS in some patients.
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Dormant Virus Wakes Up In Some Patients With Lou Gehrig's Disease

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  • What are the odds that Lou Gehrig would have died of Lou Gherig's disease? Can you imagine his conversation with the doctor?
    • What are the odds that Lou Gehrig would have died of Lou Gherig's disease?

      Yeah, you'd think he would have seen that coming.

  • by onkelonkel ( 560274 ) on Wednesday September 30, 2015 @07:27PM (#50632563)

    A friend was just diagnosed with ALS. He has a 3-5 year life expectancy at best. If this could give him a few more good years it would be awesome.

    • A childhood friend died of ALS last March. He was 55. He prolly could have lasted another year if he'd agreed to be intubated, he drew the line there.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        My aunt died of ALS, and lived on a tube for three years, after being tubed while unconscious from a fall event. Eventually she just up and decided her existence was too much to bear, and refused to take nutrients or water. It took a remarkable fourteen days for her to body to give up.

        Life lesson: if you simply refuse to want to exist this way, write and notarize a living will, and tell all of your family about your wishes.

    • A friend was just diagnosed with ALS. He has a 3-5 year life expectancy at best. If this could give him a few more good years it would be awesome.

      This is a little like Alzheimer's disease. My mother in law was on medications to slow the progression. I think she lived a couple years longer than she would have otherwise. I'd never call them good years though, the experience led me to tell my wife that there would be none of that crap put in my system.

      Pharmaceutical company did very nicely though.

      But here's hoping something can be found.

    • My dad died of ALS. He was on a ventilator and fed through an NG tube for quite a few years. Having watched how his disease and life progressed, I know I would not choose that for myself... unless there was legitimate, promising research expected to generate a cure in the very near future.

      • by sconeu ( 64226 )

        My wife died from ALS. It was the most horrible thing I have ever seen in my entire life.

  • Some skepticism (Score:5, Informative)

    by MTorrice ( 2611475 ) on Wednesday September 30, 2015 @07:39PM (#50632625)
    Here is a story from Science that reports some skepticism in the conclusions: http://news.sciencemag.org/hea... [sciencemag.org].
    • My scepticism derives from the notion that just because some disease may be caused by the expression of ERV genes, that anti-virals would have any effect. A bit gene sequence is not an actual virus.

      • by Cyberax ( 705495 )
        Unfortunately, you don't need a complete virus to cause havoc. A simple working reverse transcriptase or integrase is more than enough, even without actual viral DNA/RNA present.
      • It does seem like the antivirals are having an effect in a small group of patients, the question is whether the effect holds up in studies designed to study the effect and are statistically rigorous, and if it isn't significant is that because the population had undiscovered factors complicating the study.

        • If these are actually human genes (whatever their origin) being expressed, I can't see how antivirals would have any significant effect. Antivirals, so far as I understand it, act on the viral replication machinery. In other words, they interfere with viruses ability to harness cellular replication machinery. Once the genes are in the genome, there is no longer actually a virus to interfere with.

  • Cause, or effect? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Joe Gillian ( 3683399 ) on Wednesday September 30, 2015 @08:13PM (#50632753)

    What I'm wondering is whether this is something like the plaques that build up with Alzheimer's disease - modern medicine still doesn't know whether the plaques are a cause of Alzheimer's or a by-product of something that is the real cause of the disease. It seems plausible to me that this retrovirus could be to ALS what Kaposi's Sarcoma is to HIV/AIDS - a unique symptom of the underlying disease that certainly makes things worse, but isn't really part of the underlying cause.

  • So this is how the zombie apocalypse starts...a dormantancient virus that wakes up. Time to start storing ammo, guns, and food.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    How did we let us into the population? Thanks, Monsanto.

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