I mentioned this in my interview with Karl, and its a topic Im going to be speaking about at FreeOK2 this year– hell, its something Ive mentioned over and over and over and over on this blog:

We arent Cave Men dancing around a fire chanting ‘OOGA BOOGA VIRUS BAD!’

We are modern humans who can bend viruses to do our bidding, to *save* our lives. Viruses (and bacteria) are not something to be universally ‘feared’ anymore. We can domesticate and reprogram viruses to whatever we need them to do– they are *tools*. This isnt maybe-one-day science, we are actually doing this in the lab and in clinical trials right now.

I just came across a fun idea from a group at Case Western– Reprogramming plant viruses to treat human diseases!

Development of viral nanoparticles for efficient intracellular delivery.

The concept is not overly complex– Take a plant virus (in this case, Cowpea mosaic virus). Force it to express a receptor that will interact with a diseased human cell. Pack it full of an anti-disease agent. Essentially turning plant viruses into anti-human-cancer suicide bombers.

Though this idea is new to me, it isnt new– according to this paper, other scientists are trying a similar approach with Cowpea chlorotic mottle virus, Hibiscus chlorotic ringspot virus, Red clover necrotic mottle virus, and MS2 (a bacteria virus, not a plant virus).

What the folks in this paper did that was different was modify the virus a bit more to make it want to infect cancer (in this case, HeLa, a cervical cancer cell line) more. Common, its a plant virus– its not adapted for human anything. But with todays technology, slowly but surely, we can figure out how to make these little guys do whatever the hell we need them to do!

And these are plant viruses– depending on what you want to treat, we might not even have to inject them. Imagine you could eat a prescription salad full of anti-colon cancer plant viruses. Man– what if you could get a prescription to eat this salad once a week, a month, whatever, to *prevent* colon cancer, if it ran in your family? Hell yeah!

I have no idea how these kinds of approaches would work in the real world. The environment plant viruses have evolved to operate in is very different than the human environment– Plants do not have an adaptive immune system, they live at ambient temperatures (which can change radically over 24 hours) and a wide range of humidity. The list goes on.

But the *potential* this idea has– it wouldnt be possible without overcoming a normal, but irrational, fear of all viruses.

Comments

  1. #1 Mac
    May 2, 2012

    “Eat a salad? Yuck! Isn’t there a pill I can take instead?” – fat smoker dude with high cholesterol and hot-dog-rich diet

  2. #2 Richard Hendricks
    May 2, 2012

    Is it really infecting, ie replicating, inside the human cell? Or does it cause the system to go so haywire the human cell just commits apoptosis?

  3. #3 ERV
    May 4, 2012

    Richard– The virus is infecting a human cell, but it is not a ‘productive’ infection. Its just ‘infecting’ to deliver its cargo (anti-cancer agents/instructions). There is no viral genome to create babby viruses– it checks in, delivers the goods, and is dead :)

  4. #4 Totto
    May 4, 2012

    Yay, it takes disaster to learn a lesson: plant virus’ engineered to cure tumor!

  5. #5 JKR
    May 5, 2012

    Totto, what a pessimistic sentiment.

    It’s a logical extension of engineering harvested Immune cells in vitro using viruses and injecting it back into patients to cure Leukemia, not some disaster waiting to happen.

  6. #6 SLC
    May 5, 2012

    OT but did Ms. Smith happen to notice the post over at Physioproffe’s blog on FtB?

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/physioprof/2012/05/05/are-pit-bulls-inherently-dangerous/#comment-25496

  7. #7 ERV
    May 5, 2012

    I handed DrugMonkeys ass to him on a platter (and his BFFs, including CP) in the SciBlogs back channel years ago. Their reaction to this was to attack my dog (because they are big smart adults, you see).

    CP/DM have periodically written negative posts about pitbulls in an attempt to ‘get me back’.

    Really all it does is demonstrate what sad, pathetic humans they are. Theyre so low on the totem pole they have to beat up on already abused *dogs* just to feel alive. And theyre still doing this *years* after my ‘assault’ on them.

    Its pathetic.

    People who care about animal welfare (including dogs) will keep doing what we do, and pit bulls will keep being dogs, and losers like CP and BM will keep being losers.

    *shrug*

  8. #8 Spence
    May 6, 2012

    it checks in, delivers the goods, and is dead :)

    Oh my god! They killed virus! You bastards! etc.

    On the topic of GMO plants (hey, it’s in the title) I just noticed some activists in the UK have actually announced they plan to destroy a field trial at the end of May… hey, a tip for the anti-GM nutjobs, perhaps you don’t want to be announcing your planned illegal vandalism to the world three weeks in advance. Just sayin’.

    In other news: while playing Justicar’s game of “guess the blogger” from the SciBlogs banner, how has the pseudoscience drivel “Will Quantum Fusion Save the Day?” been the top banner link for about the last week while I’ve been lurking here at ERV? What next, an article saying how homeopathy might revolutionise medicine in the 21st century? C’mon people, standards!

  9. #9 ERV
    May 6, 2012

    Hate directed towards pitbulls does not effect me or my dog. Here is an example of what it does:

    Today, me, a friend, and friends two daughters (6 & 8) went to a local park to play. Weve been there a million times. Apparently, a kid was having a birthday party there (fine, the place is big, whatevs).

    This one woman kept bitching about Arnie. I dont care. Arnie doesnt care. We just keep walking. Well, apparently the woman kept bitching because the two girls overheard. Me and friend were playing soccer, and the girls came up to us with tears in their eyes “This woman is saying Arnie is mean and a bad dog and hes not a bad dog why is she saying that???”

    I was like “Well, some people think all dogs that look like Arnie are bad dogs.”

    Girls: “But Arnies NOT mean! Why is she being mean?”

    Me: “She thinks he is mean because of how he looks. She doesnt know him.”

    Girls: “Its wrong to treat people bad because of the way they look.”

    Me: “I know babies.”

    They cried a little and gave Arnie a big hug and stayed away from that woman. Other kids at the birthday party came over and loved on him and everyone had a wonderful time.

    btw– Arnie looked particularly ‘mean’ today. He was coated in fluorescent and glitter paint because the girls were painting at my house and ‘accidentally’ got some on Arnie (they painted him).

    *shrug*

  10. #10 Justicar
    May 6, 2012

    Three cheers for Arnie!

    Spence, I have been dying to click that quantum fusion link to see who wrote it, but I don’t want to read a wall of stupid to find out if I’m right. My guess is that it’s cinabonbonsbook who wrote it. It’s too ‘science-related’ to be Laden. And I just don’t see any of the physicists I read on here taking up the conversation. Let alone in the guise of a ‘could it be true that?’ Unsolved Mysteries type lead-in.

    *checks*

    Nailed it!

  11. #11 Spence_UK
    May 8, 2012

    @Justicar

    Ah, but how do I know you didn’t peek? Hmm? Hmm?

    OK I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt ;)

    At least the banner has been changed now. I’m sure it was coincidence but I think we should get credit anyway.

    CPs dislike of pit bulls fits in perfectly with the authoritarian position of FfTB. “Here’s something I don’t like, and here’s the weaselese bullshit waffle, based on little or no understanding of any of the pertinent issues, that I came up with to justify why it should be banned”. What a dick.

  12. #12 spence
    May 8, 2012

    Oops sorry wrong handle *rolleyes* that was me above

  13. #13 BillyHewitt
    Marion, IN
    June 25, 2012

    Franken Foods & Franken Viruses
    GM corn and GM soy combined with GM vaccines create the perfect storm for an apocalyptic genocide by plant viruses. What has caused the GM Tifton 85 grasses in Elgin, Texas to start producing cyanide gas that kills Corriente cattle herds and all living things?

  14. #14 Chris
    July 2, 2012

    @BillyHewitt. The grass in question in not a product of genetic engineering but is a hybrid and the production of cyanide by some grasses is perfectly “natural” especially under drought conditions as are currently being experienced in the region.

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