So here are my answers to The Brainstorm Challenge.
Some of you got real damn close to the ‘answers’ I was thinking of, but you all missed a great big one (which I think will make sense to you after I bring it up hehe!)
1– Lets say youve isolated white blood cells from CFS patients. You treat these cells with chemicals that interfere with normal DNA/histone methylation.
What do you think will happen?
Do you think that is a good diagnostic test for retroviral infection?
The Reno groups decision to use this as a diagnostic test is absolutely baffling. The idiomatic definition of ‘epigenetics’, histone and DNA modifications, probably evolved as a method of controlling pirate DNA. Pirate DNA like endogenous retroviruses.
Put ‘ERV methylation’ into PubMed. ‘LTR methylation’. You screw this up, you get particle production.
Treat cells with a chemical that messes up methylation… and you get retroviral particle production… XMRV or not.
2– Magic Johnson was diagnosed ‘early’ and got on antiretrovirals. Do you think there is any chance Magic Johnson will develop AIDS?
Maybe he will, maybe he wont. I would not say “Magic Johnson will not develop AIDS” in a million years.
Heres what happens with HIV-1 infected individuals:
Lets say you are diagnosed early. Get on HAART, viral load goes down, CD4+ T-cells stay up, YAY!
Well, there are always drug resistant variants present in the patients quasispecies.
Drug resistance comes at a fitness cost.
So, there are still HIV-1 viruses replicating in the patient. They might be real shitty, replicating real slow and awkward like, but theyre still going.
Some people are very very very unlucky, and in those few crappy replication cycles, the virus stumbles upon a secondary compensatory mutation. A mutation that allows it to be drug resistant AND able to replicate at a normal rate.
Some people are very very very lucky, and in those few crappy replication cycles, the virus just keeps banging its head against a wall.
The latter is like Magic Johnson. But there is no guarantee, with anyone who takes their antiretrovirals religiously, that they wont be unlucky tomorrow.
With todays technology, with todays antiretrovirals, we can extend the lives and improve the quality of life of people with HIV-1. But we cannot say they will ‘never’ develop AIDS.
3– Lets say you isolate a retrovirus from a sample from 1984. The sequence from that virus is not significantly different from sequences you are isolating from patients 25 years later. In other words, this ‘retrovirus’ is not acting as a quasispecies.
What are possible explanations for this?
If the virus does not mutate, why could the British group not find MLV sequences we know are conserved?
If this virus does not mutate, why would the PI looking for this virus be worried about PCR giving ‘false negatives’?
Fish gotta swim.
Birds gotta fly.
And retroviruses gotta act as a quasispecies.
They have to. They cannot help it. Its a side-effect of an error-prone reverse transcriptase and inter- intra-strand recombination. Even if it finds the most perfectest sequence EVAH!, it cannot keep it.
And that most perfectest sequence in Patient #1 might be awful in Patient #2, and Patient #3. Every individual is a different environment…
Certainly there are regions of a retrovirus that are functionally constrained– if they do not have sequence ABC, then the proper structure doesnt form, and viruses are non-infectious, therefore, sequence ABC is always there, but in a region like env? There is genetic plasticity, there is functional plasticity, there is selective pressure by everyones individual antibody repertoire! You cant stop the virus from mutating! If the virus stops mutating, the Red Queen race between us/retrovirus stops, and the virus is gone. I am not currently aware of any instance of anyone or any organism being ‘cured’ of a retrovirus ever.
But, quote Mikovits, “XMRV doesnt act as a quasispecies.”
I just dont see how this is possible.
4– Lets say we just discovered a new virus in humans. While most laboratories are being conservative/cautious about their statements and approach to this discovery, another lab is verbally, though not scientifically, ‘connecting’ this virus to CFS, breast cancer, chronic lyme disease, autism, and a cadre of other ‘medical mysteries’. Furthermore, the PhDs in these labs are giving medical advice like ‘take supplements X, Y, Z and immune modulators’ and suggesting ‘detox’. They are also heavily emphasizing ‘early detection’ of this new virus to prevent this list of diseases, and why, they have a test for sale right here.
Do you think that is the most scientific approach to this new virus?
What advice would you give this group of scientists?
This is example #918356125 of how unprofessional the Reno group is. There has been nothing published connecting XMRV to autism. Nothing. There has been nothing published connecting XMRV to chronic Lyme disease. There has been nothing published connecting XMRV to breast cancer. So when youre talking to the general public, you say general things like “Lots of other labs are trying to see if there is a connection between XMRV and their disease of interest. None of this, including XMRV–>CFS, has proven to be causal yet. This is currently a neat phenomena in CFS that might turn out to be something real fantastic! But right now, everything is preliminary.”
Standing up in front of a group of laymen saying “THEYVE CONNECTED XMRV TO AUTISM AND BREAST CANCER AND LIEK EVERYTING!” screams insecurity and immaturity.
And a PhD, in any field, giving medical advice? Thats down right irresponsible.
Look, my epigenetic research, I just tell people “You know what? I eat my broccoli, LOL!”
I do not tell people failing chemo “OMFG YOU NEED TO TAKE X, Y, Z SUPPLEMENTS AND DETOX WARBLEGARBLE!”
I have no doubt CFS is a real disease. PhDs are not medical physicians qualified to treat diseases. End of story.
Furthermore, Ive heard it through the grapevine that a nice, normal diagnostic test for XMRV is in the works. It looks for anti-XMRV antibodies. Awesome!
Its not from the Reno group.
It will be for research purposes only, at this point, to study the epidemiology of this virus.
There is also lots of nice, normal basic science, basic virology being done on XMRV.
Not from the Reno group.
There is going to be lots of information coming though the pipeline on XMRV. Maybe it causes CFS, maybe it doesnt. Maybe it causes certain kinds of leukemia, maybe it doesnt. Maybe it causes certain kinds of prostate cancer, maybe it doesnt.
This information is going to come out through hard work done by normal scientists doing normal scientist things.
Not by PR releases accusing other labs of fraud.
Not by doing confusing, scary, and misleading conferences for prostate cancer patients.