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
Investigative Journalist Michael C. Ruppert Dead After Lifelong Struggle With Mental Illness
2014 04 17
We’re sad to hear the news about the death of Michael Ruppert.
Rest in Peace.
From Collapse Network, which is being constantly updated with new information:
There is absolutely no doubt or question about it, Mike Ruppert took his own life.
Rest in Peace, my brother.
Wesley T. Miller
President & CEO
Collapse Network, Inc.
I have been informed that MCR has committed suicide. I ...
Cyclopean Masonry: A Mystery of the Ancient World
2014 04 16
They don’t make things like they used to, and that is, in some cases, a monumental understatement.
Silly wordplay notwithstanding, there is something to be said for the construction techniques of the old world. Where modern buildings are designed to withstand the elements; wind, temperature extremes, earthquakes and floods, today’s engineers have to strike a balance between economics ...
Megalithic Origins : Ancient connections between Göbekli Tepe and Peru
2014 04 16
At 6,500 years older than Stonehenge and 7,000 years before the pyramids were constructed, a cult megalithic complex sat atop the hills near current day Sanliurfa, in southeast Turkey.
Göbekli Tepe was flourishing an astonishing 12,000 - 14,000 years ago, and today, the preserved remains still exhibits high degrees of sophistication and megalithic engineering skill. Back in the 1990’s when ...
Department of Transportation Uses LRAD Sound Cannons Against Drivers
2014 04 16
The Missouri Department of Transportation revealed two newly acquired LRAD sound cannons this week, which will reportedly be used to target vehicles that speed in work zones.
Coming in at $25,000 a piece, the Long-Range Acoustic Device, a sonic weapon best know for its use against protesters and insurgents in Afghanistan, will alert drivers to road conditions by shooting a loud ...
An ’Unknown Holocaust’ and the Hijacking of History
2014 04 16
An address by Mark Weber, director of the Institute for Historical Review, delivered at an IHR meeting in Orange County, California, on July 25, 2009. (A report on the meeting is posted here.)
We hear a lot about terrible crimes committed by Germans during World War II, but we hear very little about crimes committed against Germans. Germany’s defeat in May ...
|More News » |