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Re-Engineering the Immune System

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the immunity-two-point-oh dept.

Biotech 175

destinyland notes a microbiology professor describing "Immunity on Demand" (or "Immunity 2.0") and wonders whether we could genetically engineer all the antibodies we need. "...there's a good chance this system, or something like it, will actually be in place within decades. Caltech scientists have already engineered stem cells into B cells that produce HIV-fighting antibodies — and an NIH researcher engineered T cells that recognize tumors which has already had promising clinical trials again skin cancer. Our best hope may be to cut out the middleman. Rather than merely hoping that the vaccine will indirectly lead to the antibody an individual needs, imagine if we could genetically engineer these antibodies and make them available as needed?"

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beating the dead meme (0, Redundant)

toastar (573882) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077474)

I for one welcome our new T cell Overlords

I was under the impression (1, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077476)

That we can't actually see a majority of diseases under a microscope, only the antibodies our bodies produce to fight it off. Has that part been a myth or have we merely technologically advanced past that?

I find it difficult for us to engineer an antibody to fight against something we haven't actually detected yet.

Re:I was under the impression (2, Insightful)

Mortiss (812218) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077604)

Well, we will still leave our immune system to handle the unknown. However the concept of either enabling a mass and cheap production of specific antibodies against viruses like HIV or transferring the antibody producing B cells into our bodies is certainly interesting. I was under the impression that his was not done earlier mainly due to the prohibitive costs of treating everyone this way. Given that there is still no effective vaccine this may actually become viable prevention or treatment option.

Re:I was under the impression (2, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078806)

I've always wondered whether some day it might be possible to have an implant that wirelessly receives new data definitions of proteins expressed by various pathogens and have it express the protein in a way that will trigger an immune response. Hence, you can automatically update everybody's immunity. Sort of like a computer virus scanner. "Oh, H10N7 has mutated into a virulent form and is now killing people in Taipei? Everyone within a 300 mile radius of Taipei with an implant who doesn't have a counterindication for it will start expressing antibodies to H10N7."

Obviously not everyone would *have* to have such an implant. But I'd certainly want one. Basically, an automatic flu shot every year, an automatic immunization against pandemics, an automatic immunization in case of biological attack, an automatic immunization against cancer-causing viruses, etc. Whenever an immunization passed FDA approval, if you were ever at risk for it, you could get it. You could even have such implants have two-way communication. If they could isolate what has made you sick, or even just what antibodies your body is producing to attack what's making you sick, they could submit that information for central analysis and outbreak control.

Re:I was under the impression (5, Interesting)

eparker05 (1738842) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077634)

For most diseases the antibodies are easier to see because they are more widespread. It only takes a few virally infected cells to set off a massive immune response. The difficulty in engineering an antibody is the same difficulty as engineering any protein. Our knowledge of protein folding is still in it's infancy. So far, we have used evolutionary methods to find new antibodies. Perhaps someday we will be able to build them from the ground up, but not now.

Re:I was under the impression (1, Offtopic)

Rene S. Hollan (1943) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077790)

replying because of a wrong mod. Meant Informative, NOT Funny

Re:I was under the impression (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31077984)

replying because of a wrong mod. Meant Informative, NOT Funny

Not trying to be a jerk, but you could of just added to the conversation instead of adding to the clutter.

Re:I was under the impression (1)

M8e (1008767) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078212)

Not trying to be a jerk, but you could of just added to the conversation instead of adding to the clutter.

Trying to be funny, but you could of just added to the conversation instead of adding to the clutter.

Re:I was under the impression (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31078258)

Yeah, I suppose. But, I had nothing to add. I really wanted to mod the post Informative, and my mouse hand moved too much.

It would be nice is Slashdot had an "undo mod" option, so one could remod. Make it cost something, so people don't change their mods willy-nilly, like the mod point you set incorrectly in the first place.

Clutter? About as much as "MOD THIS UP!" I suppose, which isn't exactly worthless.

Re:I was under the impression (0, Offtopic)

Thiez (1281866) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078594)

> It would be nice is Slashdot had an "undo mod" option, so one could remod. Make it cost something, so people don't change their mods willy-nilly, like the mod point you set incorrectly in the first place.

Maybe if the undo would have to be done within 5 minutes and you would still lose the modpoint? That sounds reasonable.

> Clutter? About as much as "MOD THIS UP!" I suppose, which isn't exactly worthless.

Actually, I always slap those with '-1 offtopic', which means the chance that I'll have modpoints left for the post they responded to goes down. Of course the exact same thing will happen to this post (but the knowledge that this one contains more content than "MOD THIS UP!" will help me sleep tonight ;)).

Re:I was under the impression (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31078752)

You can post anonymously to undo moderation, just as long as you are logged in. This way not as many people have to see your useless post, and you don't absorb any offtopic mods.

Re:I was under the impression (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31077802)

How is it so hard, just put the blood sample in the analyzer, have the microD make a sample, inject said sample hypodermically... hmm, wait what year is it?

Re:I was under the impression (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31077812)

How's your knowledge of contractions and possessive pronouns? it's means IT IS for crying out loud.

Re:I was under the impression (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078014)

We have much more powerful visualization means in science now, I recently watched a video of an HIV virus entering a cell.

But also I wanted to point out that while this theoretical process being discussed may not be usable for new diseases, there are many disease-causing viruses/microbes that are already identified but still afflict human health.

MRSA, HIV, HepatitisA/B/C, Herpes, Ghonnorhea, Chlamydia, most cancers... etc etc. So anyway, the value of the theoretical concept, if it were realized, is its ability to help with the various known problems that we could develop antibodies for and carry out deliberate controlled attacks.

Re:I was under the impression (1)

Hittite Creosote (535397) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078260)

I assume you're thinking just of optical microscopes, where a standard one can see down to around 200nm. If you include electron microscopes, however, there are plenty that can see down to the size of individual atoms - so definitely enough resolution to see viruses. There are also a load more visualisation techniques around which can also give info on virus structures.

Re:I was under... (5, Informative)

sonnejw0 (1114901) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078332)

I'm a Biologist, and you're somewhat mistaken. Antibodies are so infinitesimally tiny that no light microscope can possibly see them, even compared to virii which are also fairly invisible under a microscope. Antibodies are easy to detect, however, because they have a constant region on their tail end, which we know how to identify. We have compounds that bind to that constant tail end and as a result tag the antibody and what it is binding to. It's like the antibody is a flag pole, and biologists can run a colorful flag up that pole when we want to see what piece of the ground the flag pole is attached to.

Engineering antibodies is a simple matter, it's the basis of immunization/vaccination. Traditionally, we give chopped up bacteria and virii to a patient and their immune system detects those and creates more antibodies to put into the blood stream to stave off future infection. With this approach, instead we feed immune cells in a Petri dish an antigen, and they produce antibodies specific to that antigen. We can separate out these antibodies and purify them because they have that constant tail region that we can detect. We can then inject these into a person and these antibodies will cling to whatever thing they've been engineered to detect and attract the native immune system to it.

We can also use genetic engineering tricks to produce en masse a single specific kind of antibody. The technology has been there for research labs for decades. Either method will work fairly similarly, but in my opinion the former seems "easier", because we let the cells sort out what specific antibody to make. If we genetically engineer immune cells, we have to know exactly what gene sequence will produce an antibody targetting exactly what we want targetted ... which is good if we know what the antibody gene sequence is already, but difficult to figure out on our own. Nature is much more efficient (and cost effective) at that kind of thing. Once we let nature figure out what's best, we can just figure out the gene sequence from there to mass produce the antibody.

Re:I was under... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31078778)

> I'm a Biologist

> virii

So it's the biologists who are screwing up this beautiful language! The enemy is within the gates!

Re:I was under the impression (2, Informative)

StellarFury (1058280) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078408)

Your impression was very, very wrong. Not only can we see most disease-causing agents with electron microscopes, we have X-ray and/or NMR crystal structures of a huge number of viruses - meaning we know, down to a "where each individual atom is" level of accuracy, what these things look like.

Re:I was under the impression (1)

jonadab (583620) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078830)

> That we can't actually see a majority of diseases under a microscope

No, that's wrong. Well, it could be technically right (depending on how you define "disease"), but not in the way you were probably thinking.

If the human immune system is making antibodies to fight the disease, then there's a pathogen involved, which we most certainly can see under a microscope. (These days, microscopes can image amazingly small objects, much smaller than any protein. Not in color, of course, because we're not talking about light-refracting microscopes here. But that's really beside the point. Anyway, I'm not sure what "color" would even mean at the molecular level.)

The larger issue is that we understand the human immune system about as well as we understand the human brain. Talking about re-engineering it and making "Immune System 2.0" is pretty arrogant and unrealistic, IMO. Giving the immune system a sample of what it's supposed to fight and letting it learn to fight that (vaccination, in other words) is one thing. That's like letting the search dog sniff a scrap of the missing person's clothing so they know who they're supposed to find. Doing the actual searching is still up to the dog. Trying to improve on the actual disease-fighting process would be something else quite again. That's like trying to design a better dog. Human knowledge of how living systems work is just plain not up to that yet.

but then... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31077484)

umbrella corp will have to nuke raccoon city. MY MOTHER LIVES THERE MAN!

I am Will Smith! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31077486)

oh, this ain't gonna end well...

Here's hoping... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31077488)

...I don't die before they invent invincibility... biologically speaking of course :)

stoops.

Re:Here's hoping... (3, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078118)

Here's hoping I don't die before they invent invincibility... biologically speaking of course :)

Personally, I'm hoping they invent immortality instead. I've looked at the curves and honestly, relatively few people die "before their time" because we've become rather good at medicine but we've made very little impact on prolonging the real life span barring injury or disease. Very few of us, even those young today, will live to be 100 unless there's some real medical breakthroughs on repairing and restoring body and mind. If our bodies could stay like a 20 year old's forever, we could live to be a thousand years old already. The mortality rate for a 20 year old is <0,001.

Re:Here's hoping... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078334)

Unfortunately, while there is some interesting stuff in the early theoretical stages, the only operationally ready technique with something vaguely resembling solid research backing is one that sucks a whole damn lot.

Calorie restriction.

That's progress for you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31077522)

What's next, mechanical sperm?

What could possibly go wrong? (1)

SigILL (6475) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077526)

At least let's hope we won't all end up like that guy in TFA's illustration. Looks like he's missing something.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (1)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077712)

However that did lead to one of the greatest "Man Show" episodes ever...

Dangers of the right thing (3, Informative)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077530)

Smarting up our immune system could turn to be a dumb idea, as a good part of us comes from virus [slashdot.org]

Re:Dangers of the right thing (4, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077766)

Actally having too strong an immune system IS bad; that's what arthritis is, your body's immune system attacking you. But having bioengineered antibodies would ge great.

Too bad it will be "a few decades", I'll be dead by then.

Re:Dangers of the right thing (4, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077952)

Actually there is a theory that a lot of the autoimmune dieses we get are and artifact of the Black Death.
Those with a very strong immune system lived so now our immune systems maybe a little too good for our own good.

Re:Dangers of the right thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31078848)

Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis falls into the category of the body attacking itself. Some research show too strong of a response while others show too weak of a response. Both are currently incurable because we don't know the cause. Doesn't do us a whole lot of good to engineer antibodies if we don't know causes.

Still, being able to engineer antibodies once we know causes would be cool.

Re:Dangers of the right thing (2, Interesting)

g00ey (1494205) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078956)

I wouldn't agree to that. Autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and allergies is rather a sign that the immune system is "out of tune", not too strong. This means that the immune system is wasting its limited resources on the wrong thing.

Re:Dangers of the right thing (1)

jonadab (583620) | more than 4 years ago | (#31079014)

> Actally having too strong an immune system IS bad; that's
> what arthritis is, your body's immune system attacking you.

Arthritis, lupus, Crohns, Grave's, Psoriasis, ... all kinds of fun stuff.

> Too bad it will be "a few decades", I'll be dead by then.

Heh. When speaking of the future development of a certain technology (medical or otherwise), "a few decades" typically either means "less than twenty years" or "never". In this case, let's just say I won't be betting any money on the former timeframe.

Someone needs an editor (5, Funny)

wrencherd (865833) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077546)

From TFA:

"We are not sure when this will all happen, but there’s a good chance it will, and perhaps the only question is when."

Hmmmmm . . .

Re:Someone needs an editor (2, Funny)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078388)

From TFA:

"We are not sure when this will all happen, but there’s a good chance it will, and perhaps the only question is when."

Hmmmmm . . .

Very likely it'll be in a couple decades. I remember reading that back in the 80s.

Oh, wait...

Funny phrasing (3, Funny)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077564)

Derya Unutmaz is an Associate Professor of Microbiology and Pathology at N.Y.U. School of Medicine. His current research is focused on understanding the function of human immune system.

I can tell him right now what the function of the human immune system is: to keep us from getting sick.

I'll take his grant money now.

Re:Funny phrasing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31077996)

Nonsense. The immune system frequently makes people sick. Leaving aside lupus and other auto-immune diseases for a moment, have you ever had a fever? That was your immune system making you sick, and fighting off an infection in the process.

Re:Funny phrasing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31078076)

Derya Unutmaz is an Associate Professor of Microbiology and Pathology at N.Y.U. School of Medicine. His current research is focused on understanding the function of human immune system.

I can tell him right now what the function of the human immune system is: to keep us from getting sick.

I'll take his grant money now.

Please expand your theory into a 100 page paper with several charts and graphs then submit it to the journal Nature. Once accepted by Nature please resubmit your request and tell us how you'd like the grant, in the form of a check or small non-sequential bills in a briefcase?

Unintended Consequences? (4, Interesting)

assemblyronin (1719578) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077568)

FTA:

All this is, of course, a delicate proposition. In some ways, an overactive immune system is as much of a risk as an underactive one: more than a million people worldwide a year die from collateral damage, like septic shock after bacterial infection, and inflammations that may ultimately induce chronic illness such as heart disease and perhaps even cancer.

This is just one possible outcome to programming new antibodies. I'd also be concerned with how the treatments mitigate any risk to shutting down our own immune system.

Hypothetical speculation: Say the treatment works well while you're taking regular doses of new Immunity 2.0 shots, but as soon as you can't afford to pay anymore, you're off the Immunity 2.0 shots. Well, it's been a while since your real immune system has had to work, so the next mutation of a virus comes along and 'oops'.

Most questions to risk will probably be found in lab research and trials, but it's still something to think about.

Re:Unintended Consequences? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077760)

Don't worry until you hear that Norton is moving into the health insurance business...

Re:Unintended Consequences? (2, Insightful)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077932)

Move to a country with free healthcare?

Seriously, paying for medicine is so 19th century.

Re:Unintended Consequences? (-1, Flamebait)

XanC (644172) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078100)

I'll stick with a doctor who isn't an agent of the government, thanks.

Re:Unintended Consequences? (4, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078290)

I'll stick with a doctor who isn't an agent of the government, thanks.

Hmm. No public schools, no govt scholarships, doesn't take medicare patients, no medical license, no business license, doesn't cooperate with the CDC, ... That leaves us with what, one master herbalist in Berkley?

I had doctors who were agents of the gov't... (5, Insightful)

sean.peters (568334) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078338)

... for 20 years. They were called "Navy doctors". They had all the latest technology, were extremely skilled, and... free. Of course, taxpayer dollars were paying them, but 1) total costs per person in the military are a hell of a lot less than the mess we have going on in the world of private health insurance, and 2) for the cost of something like the Iraq war, we could have provided health coverage for the entire country for like 15 years. So it's not like we can't afford it.

People who bitch about "socialized medicine" should try it some time.

Re:I had doctors who were agents of the gov't... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078514)

2) for the cost of something like the Iraq war, we could have provided health coverage for the entire country for like 15 years.

Therein lies the problem with the American sicknesscare system. As long as anyone in the system makes money off it, once they know you're willing to pay "one Iraq war per 15 year" they'll simply extort "two Iraq wars per 15 years" and they'll get it too, because no one wants to die.

Look at the education bubble. The more money the govt provides for education, the higher the price charged. Anywhere the govt kicks in money, the prices will rise.

Re:Unintended Consequences? (3, Interesting)

samkass (174571) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078356)

I'll stick with a doctor who isn't an agent of the government, thanks.

You mean like Canada?

There are a lot of systems by which you can accomplish universal health care. The UK version in which doctors are federal employees is one, but the Canadian system where the federal government is essentially the insurer is another. Another option is the system that the current US reform bill proposes which is very similar to the Republican one from the early 90's. The only really bad option is doing nothing.

Re:Unintended Consequences? (2, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078210)

You need to come up with some better phrasing for that, you are suggesting that back in the 19th century, we had to pay for medicine, rather than having slaves like we do today.

You should probably use 'universal health care' instead of 'free health care', and speak about not charging for it at the point of delivery.

Re:Unintended Consequences? (2, Informative)

ultranova (717540) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078496)

Well, it's been a while since your real immune system has had to work, so the next mutation of a virus comes along and 'oops'.

Your real immune system is working all the time, fighting more simultaneous and endless wars than the United States. Leave a piece of meat on the table and take note how long it takes before all the bacteria, fungi and insects notice it's there. Now remember that you are made of meat.

You only notice your immune system when something manages to get a foothold, but that doesn't mean that it isn't working at the other times.

Obligatory tag... (2, Funny)

caladine (1290184) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077600)

whatcouldpossiblygowrong

On a more serious note, this looks promising. I just hope we don't rush into this. The immune system runs a delicate balance, over response is nearly as dangerous as not enough. More research needed.

And then when a new disease cones along ... (2, Informative)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077612)

And then when a new disease comes along, our immune system is not properly trained, and we'll die.

Remember that the native Americans dies from illnesses which were relatively harmless for the Europeans, because they just didn't have all those illnesses there.

Re:And then when a new disease cones along ... (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077910)

The immune system isn't some kind of muscle, it doesn't really have "strength" in some neatly scalar way(OK, if your T-cell count is completely in the tank, you'd have a case for saying that your immune system is "weak").

You acquire immunity based on exposure to particular agents. If a new disease comes along, your immune system won't be properly trained no matter what you've been doing before. That is what makes it a "new" disease. Plus, the whole point of this approach would be that you could engineer antibodies on demand for the new disease, and take them before it kills you.

The immune system will, given time, almost always come up with antibodies and mount a response; but some conditions will kill you good and hard before you have time to mount that response. This is why vaccines are useful(since they provoke the same or similar response; but are harmless, so your immune system isn't racing against the clock). If you could engineer the antibodies themselves, you could get even faster response, and have something that would work even once you are infected.

It would, essentially, allow you to apply the technique that we currently use in Antivenom agents to diseases generally.

Re:And then when a new disease cones along ... (2, Interesting)

mariox19 (632969) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078018)

I seem to remember reading something that contradicts what you're saying.

As I recall, some scientists are wondering if vaccinating children against chickenpox is having an adverse affect on the adult population who have had chickenpox. Since kids aren't carrying the active virus, adults are exposed to it less. It seems like routine exposure may actually help keep our immune systems primed. The result is, since more immune systems are "out of practice," so to speak, more adults are contracting shingles. [webmd.com]

Disclaimer: I have no science background to start with, and I'm recounting this from memory. If I'm wrong, I apologize.

Re:And then when a new disease cones along ... (2, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078218)

You can definitely have "strength" with respect to a particular disease, or class of closely related diseases. That is pretty much how the immune response works. Grandparent seemed to be talking about the case of exposure to one disease, followed by exposure to something entirely different. The "practice" in the case of the first disease would indeed make you more resistant to future occurrences of that one; but wouldn't make a difference in terms of your response to something novel.

Re:And then when a new disease cones along ... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078414)

The immune system will, given time, almost always come up with antibodies and mount a response; but some conditions will kill you good and hard before you have time to mount that response.

Occasionally overreacts and kills you by fever, also occasionally gets the peculiar idea that wheat, soy, milk protein is an enemy invader and attacks your stomach wall, like my son (whom is perfectly healthy if he avoids those foods, projectile vomiting otherwise) Even worse is when it gets the idea your own innards are the enemy... I dated a girl in the very early 90s whos mother had Lupus and thats how she described Lupus, since theres some genetic component, they're probably both dead by now, don't know.

So, its not as simple as feed the T-cells the equivalent of a monster energy drink, and explains the interest in proper engineering of a specific response.

Re:And then when a new disease cones along ... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078088)

Yeah, and lots of Europeans still died of all sorts of diseases, right up until vaccines and antibiotics were discovered.

I'd rather have antibiotics and vaccines than be proud of all the exercise my immune system has had. And that is leaving aside the part where no one has ever explained to me why I should view my immune system as a muscle.

Lazy immune system? (2, Insightful)

wrencherd (865833) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077616)

I have to ask, b/c I don't know, but could this lead to lazy-, or even more inept immune systems?

Re:Lazy immune system? (1)

Zerth (26112) | more than 4 years ago | (#31079092)

It sounds plausible, if the introduction of the antibody doesn't inform the immune system how to reproduce it in the same fashion that introduction of inert viral proteins does.

If so, it would only be effective until the antibodies degraded/were flushed out.

It would still be useful for improving immune response to diseases that kill quickly or used as a prophylactic when you don't have time to wait after the inoculation before being exposed(e.g. emergency aid workers).

I for one (2, Funny)

wintercolby (1117427) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077636)

welcome our new zombie overlords [imdb.com] .

Re-Engineering? (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077644)

I believe it should be "Re-Randomchanceing the immune system". Remember, something cannot be accidentally engineered. The summary writer is clearly in the pocket of Big I.D. /sarcasm

autoimmunity could be a major side-effect (4, Insightful)

bzdyelnik (1600135) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077646)

If the exogenous antibodies end up hitting the wrong cells in some people, there could be major problems. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autoimmunity [wikipedia.org] Although I would expect that there would be some sort of pre-compatibility test to avoid major complications - but you can't realistically pre-test every cell type via biopsy.

Re:autoimmunity could be a major side-effect (2, Interesting)

izomiac (815208) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078152)

I agree. Autoimmunity seems like it'll kill this idea unless they take some pretty extreme measures to get around it. Each person is genetically different. There are a lot of potential antigens for an antibody to recognize. With our own immune system there are (imperfect) mechanisms to kill any B or T cell that recognizes something inappropriate. With genetically engineered antibodies, this step is skipped entirely. In fact, I suspect this step is why we don't form natural antibodies to some diseases... especially since our immune cells are obviously capable of doing so in a test tube.

Boy, Howdy! (2, Insightful)

overshoot (39700) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077660)

If you think that the whack-jobs are ballistic about vaccines, wait they go off the rails for something like this!

Re:Boy, Howdy! (0)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078056)

They'll only go ballistic if you make it mandatory.

They're not all "whack-jobs"... (0)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078198)

Have you ever had a former Playboy Bunny in bed with you? I'd bet you'd go off the rails yourself to keep that going.

Re:Boy, Howdy! (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078716)

If you think that the whack-jobs are ballistic about vaccines, wait they go off the rails for something like this!

So? Then they'll end up dying from illnesses the rest of us are immunized to, which is unfortunate from a humanitarian point of view, but that's their own fault, and at least they'll get some herd protection since everyone around them is unable to pass the disease to them. A pity about their children suffering from their parent's stupidity, but maybe they'll wise up once they grow up.

Then again, with that ballistic tendency, they might find employment in private spaceflight industry as booster rockets ;).

Re:Boy, Howdy! (3, Informative)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078992)

A pity about their children suffering from their parent's stupidity, but maybe they'll wise up once they grow up.

Alas, not just their own unfortunate kids. Ever read about Dana McCaffery? [danamccaffery.com] She was too young to be vaccinated, and she died of pertussis that the anti-vaxxers brought back. Then one of the local pro-disease dumbasses [discovermagazine.com] went and said that no one ever died of pertussis.

Re:Boy, Howdy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31078988)

If you think that the whack-jobs are ballistic about vaccines, wait they go off the rails for something like this!

Yeah. Good thing we normal folks are ok with instantly whiping out millions of years of evolution with zero critical thought, because some dude said he's the expert on this stuff.

vaccination 2.0 (1)

Alinabi (464689) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077694)

So this is, like, vaccination 2.0. Is this a ploy to make vaccination more palatable to the freaks who think vaccines cause autism?

Re:vaccination 2.0 (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078472)

So this is, like, vaccination 2.0. Is this a ploy to make vaccination more palatable to the freaks who think vaccines cause autism?

Hah. No. They'll freak out even more about something like this. But it'll improve survivability for the rest of us, enabling natural selection to fix the problem.

Hey, awesome... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31077702)

Lets cure all natural causes of death through the miracle of modern science.
Then starve to death as the world becomes grossly overpopulated.

Re:Hey, awesome... (2, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077832)

Lets cure all natural causes of death through the miracle of modern science.
Then starve to death as the world becomes grossly overpopulated.

Don't worry. The human race is so effective at killing each other that most people won't starve anyway.

Re:Hey, awesome... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077974)

Don't worry; thanks to the work of Norman Borlaug and Mikhail Kalashnikov, there are alternatives to mass starvation...

Re:Hey, awesome... (0, Offtopic)

NiteShaed (315799) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078324)

I wish I had mod points. I'm glad I don't though, because I'd really be torn between "Funny" and "Insightful"......

Re:Hey, awesome... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31078054)

Ideally we would solve all of our problems eventually, but if it pains you that much to read articles on progress towards solving one or a couple of problems at a time, give me your email and I'll let you know when they publish "All human problems solved!" so you won't have to read through piddly solutions to things like all disease, ever.

Re:Hey, awesome... (0)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078188)

People aren't starving for lack of food, it's politics that make people go hungry. As far as overpopulation, there's this thing called "birth control" that the Chinese have been pretty good at mandating in their own country. That book "The Population Bomb" is sadly out of date; according to it, we're all supposed to be dead by now.

Sure is heartwarming that somebody wants people to die so they can have more kids.

Re:Hey, awesome... (5, Interesting)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078512)

Lets cure all natural causes of death through the miracle of modern science. Then starve to death as the world becomes grossly overpopulated.

Problem: All evidence suggests the opposite. Eliminate all the most egregious morality concerns from a population, and they stop reproducing like rabbits. In the healthiest parts of the first word, population growth is going negative.

The Professor Should First Read The Patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31077726)

application for Altermune [google.com] by Kary Mullis (Oct, 29, 2003)

The professor has been doing too much reading and not enough thinking as Richard Hamming observed.

Yours In Moscow,
Kilgore T.

Ah, hubris. (1)

neurogeneticist (1631367) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077772)

So we can't stop our poor dumb natural immune systems from attacking our own bodies, and we're just a few short years away from telling it what to do?

Re:Ah, hubris. (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078130)

We have had antirejection drugs for decades (but I guess they are rather gross tools, and I concede that they aren't exactly what you are talking about).

Resident Evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31077788)

This sounds like the plot to Resident Evil.

Too much Sci-fi (2, Funny)

COMON$ (806135) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077804)

Maybe I have been reading too much sci-fi lately but arent we closer to using nanotech as an immune system than using biological sources?

Re:Too much Sci-fi (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078456)

Maybe I have been reading too much sci-fi lately but arent we closer to using nanotech as an immune system than using biological sources?

To actually apply it in the real world you need mass production and while bacteria and viruses have a working means to reproduce nanotech isn't even close. So I think for a long time to come we will manipulate biological sources into producing the antibodies and amino acids and hormones and whatever else we need. Not to mention that if we can manipulate our own DNA to make it "ours" there's much less chance of rejection or reactions to all the foreign elements. It also helps that all the blueprints are also there, imagine if you could trick cells into growing new hearts or livers or kidneys or lungs. Creating an army of nanorobots to build one would be a massive undertaking. There's still extremely much that could be done on the biological side if only we figured out how.

Re:Too much Sci-fi (1)

COMON$ (806135) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078662)

Ya I was just thinking that our robotics tech was more advanced than our understanding of biology. Creating a series of nanobots that repaired telomeres and attacked foreign items seems simpler than revamping an entire immune system. Not that we shouldn't keep advancing our understanding of biology but our immune systems have been working on getting where they are for a very long time. It might not be wise to mess with that.

Within decades? (1)

MathiasRav (1210872) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077822)

xkcd:678 [xkcd.com]

Star Trek did it (2, Interesting)

0racle (667029) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077862)

Wasn't there a Star Trek: TNG episode where they did this? Remember how everyone who wasn't engineered was dying?

Na, that'll never happen.

Re:Star Trek did it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31077944)

One of the earlier episodes, before Bev was the head doc. The anti-bodies the engineered were creating were killing those in the presense of them. In the end, they save the doc by filtering her through a transporter, using hair from her brush as pattern DNA to repair the damage.

Re:Star Trek did it (1)

jburroug (45317) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078360)

Yes they did [memory-alpha.org] But no one remembers because it was a Dr. Pulaski episode.

auto immune system response (4, Funny)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 4 years ago | (#31077972)

Hey wouldn't it be great if our bodies did this automatically...

Slashdot immunity (1, Flamebait)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078412)

I'm going to get whooshed for replying to that, but they do, except when diseases kill us faster than we can replenish our pool of Slashdotty sarcastic contrarian commenters.

I thought we alerady could (1)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078172)

As someone who is allergic to nearly everything, I've taken a keen interest in the immune system.

I read something a while ago that said allergies and even things like nervous tics could be inherited from a blood transfusion. The idea is that along with the blood cells, you get the donor's white blood cells and antibodies, which then teach your own white blood cells how to make the antibodies, so you wind up with their allergies. It also said that some nervous system things like tics could also be inherited the same way. So it would seem we already have what the article is talking about.

Re:I thought we alerady could (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078630)

...from a blood transfusion. ... So it would seem we already have what the article is talking about.

Really? How often do people get a transfusion of lab-created, genetically engineered blood? If the answer is "never", then I fail to see how we already have what the article is talking about.

Ounce/Pound (1)

overshoot (39700) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078382)

Rather than merely hoping that the vaccine will indirectly lead to the antibody an individual needs, imagine if we could genetically engineer these antibodies and make them available as needed?

Just guessing, mind, but maybe because prevention has advantages over cures?

Sounds useful (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078458)

I'll take some antibodies for meatloaf, that way Aunt Mary's "specialty" causes an immune response and I can claim to be allergic.

Aren't there a ton of health problems (1)

Phizzle (1109923) | more than 4 years ago | (#31078562)

that are caused by the antibodies?

The reminds me of a science-fiction novel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31078592)

I'll leave it to your imagination how *that* turned out.

I tha8k you for your time (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31078674)

clothes Rorn be a community at
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