Archive for Viruses

Immunological Horizons

Posted in Medicine, Science!, Things You Should Read with tags , , on November, 2011 by melendwyr

By now you’ve probably heard the news:  a team of researchers at MIT have developed a treatment which can target cells in which viruses are replicating and destroy them.  Which is pretty much the only way to deal with virus-infected cells, so it’s not as draconian a strategy as it sounds.

So far, it hasn’t been rigorously tested in human beings, and there are just tons of potential complications, obstacles to overcome, and hurdles to leap… but the potential is staggering.  This is the sort of thing which science fiction has only speculated about.  A few people have said this is like hearing about the initial research into penicillin.  They’re wrong.  This is way, way bigger.  Potentially.

There are some obvious possible drawbacks.  The therapy wouldn’t be all that useful for conditions in which the nervous system itself becomes infected, for example, not beyond perhaps the very earliest stages of infection.  And conditions in which immune cells are infected?  I don’t know that this would be useful for, say, HIV, once the infection is established.  The drug used has to diffuse throughout the body, which is going to require quite a dose, and I’m fairly sure it’s expensive.

But this could change the world substantially, in ways we can barely imagine.

It’s too soon to start breaking out the champagne and Nobel Prizes.  We should put a bottle on to chill, just in case.

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