Genetic switch to guard against escaped ’superviruses’
2013 08 14
By Priya Shetty | NewScientist
It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood disaster movie: scientists tinker with a flu virus to make it more deadly, only for the mutant strain to escape and trigger a pandemic.
Yet flu scientists are currently at loggerheads over experiments to make the H7N9 bird influenza virus that emerged in China earlier this year even more dangerous.
Some argue that "gain of function" experiments to make the virus more infectious, more deadly and drug resistant in ferrets – the best available test animal for human flu – offer up vital information that could help us defend against a pandemic.
Other scientists are concerned that deliberately creating a supervirus could provide a weapon to bioterrorists. What’s more, they point out, existing biosafety measures – such as requiring researchers to wear special safety suits and go through decontamination chambers when leaving the lab – may not be enough to prevent the virus spreading.
Now, a team led by Benjamin tenOever, at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, has devised a genetic failsafe that would switch off mutant strains if they escaped from the lab and infected humans.
tenOever’s team tweaked an H3N2 flu strain, a common cause of seasonal flu, by tagging it with a single strand of microRNA, a sequence of genetic material that when paired with a complementary sequence, can switch genes on and off.
The microRNA put into the virus is chosen so that when it is met by a matching strand in its host organism, the virus’s replication genes get shut down.
By using a microRNA that exists in human and mice lung cells but not in ferrets, tenOever and his team developed a modified virus that could replicate in ferrets during their experiments but not in mice or humans, if it ever escaped the lab.
The study comes shortly after a letter was published in Science and Nature by Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and 23 colleagues, defending such research on the basis that the best way to prevent a worst-case scenario is to provoke one.
The letter was intended to prevent a similar furore to the one that erupted in late 2011 surrounding gain of function experiments, which Fouchier also led, on another avian influenza strain, H5N1. It resulted in the publication of the work being delayed by nine months.
tenOever says that Fouchier’s H5N1 research was key in identifying mutations that would make the bird virus start to spread between mammals. "This knowledge was critical to focus our surveillance efforts to monitor the virus and predict when the risk of disease justifies vaccine development."
Marc Lipsitch at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston is unconvinced. He considers gain of function studies highly risky. And the genetic failsafe proposed by tenOever’s team may itself be volatile, he says. "Engineering the restrictive sequence is a change with unpredictable consequences, which could make experiments even harder to interpret and also provide a false sense of security".
Michael Imperiale at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor agrees. "My concern is that the microRNA target on the viral genome will just mutate in the same way that a virus develops drug resistance."
Read the full article at: newscientist.com
Tune into Red Ice Radio:
Sonia Barrett & Sharry Edwards - Hour 1 - The Business of Disease
Rudy Mazzocchi - Black Market of Human Organ Transplants
H.P. Albarelli Jr. - Germ Warfare, CIA, LSD and the Murder of Dr. Frank Olson
Peter Duesberg - The Invention of AIDS
David Icke - Swine Flu, Mass Vaccinations & G20
Dr. Leonard Horowitz - The Pharmaceutical Industry, Vaccines & Frequency 528
Rupert Sheldrake - The Science Delusion
Catherine Austine Fitts - Swine Flu, Vaccination & The Economy
Oops: Vial of deadly virus goes missing from secure biomedical lab
U.S. virologists intentionally engineer super-deadly pandemic flu virus
"Pandemic" Simulated Reality Show has audience participate in graphic survival scenarios (Video)
Did doctors jumpstart the HIV pandemic?
The ’False’ Pandemic: Drug Firms Cashed in on Scare over Swine Flu, Claims Euro Health Chief
DARPA to Genetically Engineer Humans by Adding a 47th Chromosome
The when and where of Y: Research on Y chromosomes uncovers new clues about human ancestry
Latest News from our Front Page
What happened to Journalist Serena Shim? Assassinated? Find out what happened to Serena, Press TV director calls on Turkey
2014 10 21
Press TV news director Hamid Reza Emadi says the “suspicious death,” of the news channel’s correspondent in Turkey is a tragedy for “anyone who wants to get the truth.”
Emadi made the remarks in an interview with Press TV on Sunday following Serena Shim’s death across the border from Syria’s Kurdish city of Kobani, where the ISIL terrorists and Kurdish fighters ...
Ancient Roman Nanotechnology Inspires Next-Generation Holograms for Information Storage
2014 10 21
The Lycurgus Cup, as it is known due to its depiction of a scene involving King Lycurgus of Thrace, is a 1,600-year-old jade green Roman chalice that changes colour depending on the direction of the light upon it. It baffled scientists ever since the glass chalice was acquired by the British Museum in the 1950s, as they could not work ...
Rapid Geomagnetic Reversal Possibility: Confirmed
2014 10 21
From the video: "The scientists who conducted the study are still unsure why the magnetic field is weakening, but one likely reason is the Earth’s magnetic poles are getting ready to flip, said Rune Floberghagen, the ESA’s Swarm mission manager. In fact, the data suggest magnetic north is moving toward Siberia."
Tune into Red Ice Radio:
Ben Davidson - Suspicious0bservers: Space Weather ...
Georgia Guide Stone 2014 cube stone removal
2014 10 21
From: Youtube: Was it all just a gag? it seems the cube stone just happens to be made out of the same Elberton granite that the rest of this morbid monument is made from.
Secret Project Created Weaponized Ebola In South Africa In The 1980s
2014 10 21
“No records are available to confirm that the biological agents were destroyed.”
Operating out of South Africa during the Apartheid era in the early 1980’s, Dr. Wouter Basson launched a secret bioweapons project called Project Coast. The goal of the project was to develop biological and chemical agents that would either kill or sterilize the black population and assassinate political enemies. ...
|More News » |