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!
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.