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Ebola + HIV = Great Gene Therapy?

timothy posted more than 12 years ago | from the strange-origins dept.

Science 23

Artifice_Eternity writes: "This NY Times article describes a new gene therapy technique, built from two of the most feared diseases known to humankind. The Ebola and HIV virii each possess qualities that are useful in getting new genes into the body, to replace defective ones. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's Institute for Human Gene Therapy have snipped out bits from each virus, and successfully used their hybrid virus to deliver a marker gene to mice, by spraying it into their respiratory tracts. This could prove useful in treating cystic fibrosis and other genetically-caused lung diseases. Here's the IHGT's own page on the project. But: here's a Washington Post article from March on the same topic, featuring skeptical comments from Dr. Robert Gallo, co-discoverer of HIV. Gallo fears that such a hybrid could potentially combine with 'wild HIV' to produce a new contagion (airborne HIV, anyone? *cough*)."

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23 comments

Ebola is back (1)

imrdkl (302224) | more than 12 years ago | (#2681874)

The older version of Ebola is popping up again [foxnews.com]. I dont know about the possibilities with this new stuff.

This seems wrong (1)

Bliss_Kiss (542746) | more than 12 years ago | (#2682924)

I can understand doing research on things, but this seems wrong. Like the end of the story said "air born HIV anyone?" This whole thing could back fire and cause something else that we (we being us humans) cannot contain. And thats the last thing we need b/c it seems to me we already have enough of that.

Welcome, newbie (OT) (1)

imrdkl (302224) | more than 12 years ago | (#2683490)

Congratulations on your first comment to /., Bliss_Kiss. I suspect that you probably did not mean to reply to my comment, which was typical mindless drivel for which I am becoming well-known and highly regarded. Next time, you should press the REPLY button just below the article, and above all of the comments, to post a first-level comment, just FYI.

This could be wonderful, (1)

Unknown Poltroon (31628) | more than 12 years ago | (#2682219)

Or it could wipe out the human race. I would say proceed with great caution. REmember, HIV may have gotten its start in humans due to medical experiments for treating polio in the 50s. We dont want to give it another jump by mistake.

And so could Restriction Enzymes (5, Insightful)

Ieshan (409693) | more than 12 years ago | (#2682256)

Does anyone remember when Restriction Enzymes were all the rage in molecular biology (which wasn't really even a field back then)?

They were actually banned in Cambridge, MA (home of Harvard and MIT) during the 70s, and now they are used in my Biology Lab courses to teach us how DNA seperates in agarose gel electrophoresis.

Point being: Don't jump to stupid conclusions about the dangers of things.

Get real all..... (3, Insightful)

jsimon12 (207119) | more than 12 years ago | (#2682786)

These aren't mad scientists playing frankenstien people. Geesh, I would have figured at least /. types would have enough sense and education to not be drawn into the regular moronic hysteria.

As for the polio/AIDS bit, they did tests on some old frozen blood/tissue samples and found no link, so that whole connection is unfounded. More then likely AIDS was either around for a long time and didn't become prevelant till people could travel great distances quickly (lets be honest, would have been pretty easy to confuse with consumpltion/TB back in the "old days") or AIDS was a simian virus that made the jump to humans at some point (we are all primates).

So all and all, lets calm down, this will not turn into 12 monkeys, if anything it should bring a lot of really sick kids some hope (Cystic Fibrosis), or will we let our hysteria ruin any chance of that?

On the other hand.... (1)

inaneboy (306740) | more than 12 years ago | (#2683788)

Some time ago, some scientists thought they knew what they were doing with a rabbit Virus.


Then it got loose. I'll admit that it's a different order of magnitude, but the world has a very poor track record with biological controls.


I might also point out the spread (unexpected) of genemod corn....


Take a look.
http://www.time.com/time/international/1995/9512 11 /environment.html


http://ucbiotech.org/~news/articles/100201.htm

Re:Get real all..... (1)

Mr. Fred Smoothie (302446) | more than 12 years ago | (#2683839)

They did tests on samples which it turned out were from seed virus lot, not production vaccine. The tests were worthless from the point of view of establishing whether or not actual vaccine production lots were contaminated with simian HIV precursor virus.

Additionally, there is now evidence [uow.edu.au] that Chimpanzee tissue culture -- Chimpanzee SIV being the supposed AIDS precursor virus -- was used to passage the seed virus to produce vaccine (something which every opponent of the OPV/AIDS hypothesis claims never happened, but of whom none can prove, given that no protocol for vaccine production has ever been produced for the Koprowski/Wistar vaccines in question), and circumstantial evidence that vaccine produced in this manner may actually have been used in field trials in humans.

So,

  1. The people who are claiming that the debate is over are the people with a compelling financial interest in squashing this line of investigation;
  2. The people who are claiming that the debate is over are ignoring evidence as they see fit, and are content not to ask for evidence (e.g., vaccine manufacture protocols and lab notes related actual vaccine production lots) which would shed a great deal of light on the issue;
  3. The proponents of the theory have no financial interest in the outcome of the debate(even if one could argue book sales, the books will sell even if the theory turns out to be false);
  4. ONLY THE OPV/AIDS theory accounts for the extremely high correlation of mass polio vaccinations and early AIDS infection sites, especially in remote, supposedly "isolated" areas in Eastern Congo, Western Rwanda/Burundi;
While I am pro-science, I am strongly pro-caution. We all want to rid our species of diseases, but we must carefully weigh the potential costs with the uncertain benefits and strive to reach the utmost level of certainty with regard to safety. Unfortunately, the rush to be the first to do something (and thus get the profits associated with commercial development, and secure future funding) can be highly detrimental to that goal.

Um, no. (3, Informative)

Snafoo (38566) | more than 12 years ago | (#2683055)

Sorry dude, but (AFAIK, IANAMB) airborne virii must satisfy some pretty nutty restrictions (sizewise, weightwise, clumping-together-wise). HIV, being one giant hairball of a mo-fu, fails. I'd imagine that a gen-eng virus sufficiently large to look anything like HIV would fail, too.

But the possibility of a new, non-airborne contagion is not out of the question, of course...

Smallpox (1)

Mr. Fred Smoothie (302446) | more than 12 years ago | (#2683858)

Smallpox is the largest known human virus. Its spead is primarily airborne. I think you may be confusing viruses and bacteria in this case.

Re:Smallpox (1)

Eviltar (175008) | more than 12 years ago | (#2684585)

Smallpox is the largest known human virus.

Largest in terms of molecular size (i.e. number of atoms, molecular structure) or largest in terms of density (more heavy atoms like oxygen and carbon)? There is a difference, y'know.

It's density (i.e. density greater than molecular nitrogen) that would determine if it can be spread through the air, amongst other factors.

I LOVE YOU! (4, Funny)

jasno (124830) | more than 12 years ago | (#2683613)

I'm just waiting for some bored kid in the philippines to whip up a strain of influenza that alters your neurons to start producing MDMA...

We can call it the 'ILOVEYOU' virus...

Timothy has a cough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2683734)

airborne HIV, anyone? *cough*)

better stay away from Timothy...

Should gene therapy virii be contagious? (1)

EccentricAnomaly (451326) | more than 12 years ago | (#2685098)

Ok, so instead of just worrying about catching flu, colds, STDs... now I have to worry about catching a gene therapy virus that changes my eyes blue... or worse

Caution is warranted (4, Informative)

Shere Khan (40224) | more than 12 years ago | (#2685109)

Having spent some time at a lab doing cutting edge HIV research I have to say that those "genes which help HIV infect and persist" in cells are also what makes HIV incurable. While we now understand the basics, we still don't understand all of the details. And given the ability of viruses to rapidly mutate and/or trade genes, the last thing I want is a permanent, incurable, but theoretically harmless, virus in my system which can mutate into something nasty or pick up new tricks from another more harmful virus I might come down with...

I'm all for continuing research in a secure facility, but until we have the ability to eradicate such a virus from the body I'd be very reluctant to have even a "harmless" virus with those genes added inserted into anyone who isn't already dying, and even then I'd have to think long and hard.

Caution is warranted = afraid of the unknown (1)

atrin (541643) | more than 12 years ago | (#2692573)

In order for a virus to "pick up new tricks from another more harmful virus" they have to be in the same cell at the same time before the cell successfully multiplies. So the viruses must be of the same type (modify gene code during mitose or modify the same other part of the cell other than the nucleus) and they must be present in huge numbers for that to happen (statistical reasons, ex flu) and well since you're already densely infested with this more harmful than ebola or hiv (of which by the way, only the code delivering part is kept because it's cheaper and faster to cultivate ebola than construct the carrier part which it's already compatible with the receptors of the targeted cell you want to modify) don't worry, you're dead.

What do you _actually_ do in that lab, dear - backups, dishes?

Re:Caution is warranted = afraid of the unknown (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2701662)

HIV isn't dependent on mitosis to reproduce. It brings its own enzyme, reverse transcriptase, into the cells it invades and bypasses the cell's replicative machinery. So another retrovirus such as HTLV, a known cancer-causer, could conceivably integrate into the same chromosome of the same cell creating a new provirus. While the odds of this normally happening aren't very high, once you've got the first retrovirus as a permanent resident, the odds of a second coming by within the next few decades are no longer astronomical.

Alternatively if you successfully manage to insert those genes into something other than a retrovirus then you've just introduced those same "permanency" genes into a family of viruses that didn't already have them...Congratulations!

Don't believe it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2688296)

It's just another government program to wipe out humans to control overpopulation!! Someone found out about this research project, and this is just the coverup!! ...oh crap, someones breaking down my door!!

Justified Cruel and Unusual Punishment (0, Flamebait)

Bakajin (323365) | more than 12 years ago | (#2697470)

Just to make sure such risky research is done with unparralleled safty constraints a law should be passed (and constitution ammended if necessary) such that any individual or group that creates a bioligical plague that is released upon society should have their entire familly killed in front of them and then locked away in the most inhuman way possible for the rest of their life.
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