Viruses are skillful mutants, changing their structures or outer proteins to evade the shifting natural defenses of their targets. (This is why you have to get a flu shot every year.) Now researchers in France report using one of the most proficient mutants, HIV, to fight another intractable disease: Cancer.
Researchers at the French National Center for Scientific Research set out to study molecules that could improve the effectiveness of cancer drugs. As they explain in their paper, this process often involves screening for the desired trait using bacteria, but sometimes a molecule that works on a bacterium doesn't work the same way on a human cell. It would be better to start out with a human cell and screen new compounds right there. To speed the process of finding these new compounds, the team worked with HIV, taking advantage of its replication machinery and proclivity for mutating.
As HIV replicates, it creates slightly new versions of itself over successive generations — this allows it to readily resist most of the drug cocktails and anti-viral treatments developed to fight it. But it could also allow HIV to serve as a sort of molecule factory, creating new iterations of compounds that work in slightly different ways.
The CNRS team modified the genome of HIV by inserting a human gene for a protein called deoxycytidine kinase (dCK). This protein is found in all cells and is important for activating anti-cancer drugs. Researchers would like to make a more potent form of dCK that would allow cancer drugs to work more effectively, which could in turn require less of them, causing fewer side effects and less toxicity.
The team multiplied this mutant HIV through several generations, yielding an entire library of mutant dCK proteins, about 80 in all. Ultimately, they found a variant that induces tumor cells to die. With just 1/300th the dose of cancer-killing drugs, this one-two protein punch is just as effective at stopping tumor growth.
This is notable for a few reasons — first, the mutated protein was shown to work in human cell cultures, eliminating several middle steps with bacteria or animals. Second, it suggests there's a way to make cancer drugs work more effectively simply by beefing up the body's internal chemistry. And finally, it suggests a new therapeutic use for one of humanity's strongest adversaries — HIV-derived protein factories could pump out generations upon generations of new molecules and drug compounds to help alleviate a wide range of illnesses. The French team's paper appears in the journal PLoS Genetics.
Does this mean we can use HIV against itself?
@haywall Curing cancer is infinitely more important. For humans to ever be theoretically immortal we first have to cure cancer. Regenerating tissue often causes cancer cells to form.
A cure for AIDS would be great and all, but there are far more important things to cure. And, anyone who disagrees is simply wrong, and I'm right.
Agreed VecTron! AIDS and HIV can be suppressed or the infection can be completely avoided by changing habits or lifestyle. But no one at any time is EVER immune to cancer (unless you are a shark). Given enough time, EVERYONE will get cancer the only ones who don't die from it were simply killed by something else. Cancer is the #1 enemy.
I pray and hope medical science helps all those are sick and the price all can afford. We need a NASA of medical science, FOR THE PEOPLE!
now thats fighting FIRE with FIRE
They have cures for both cancer, and HIV. They just refuse to use the cure, because of the fact they make more money off of treatments rather than curing. Once cured, what more is there to do? Wouldn't need to shell out money for 'treatments' that half the time don't even work, or in some cases makes the disease worse.
You know that about one percent of European descents are immune to the affects of HIV/AIDS. Do you think that such a treatment would have an effect or just be nullified?
But the concept is awesome, we really need to stop our bodies from oxidizing and this is an excellent start. It's neat how we are starting to consciously change our gentic blueprint.
In looking at the variations of the aids virus and where else it exist in the other animal world, lions and primates, there are many that are currently immune to the virus. In this, there is hope for a cure!
"Just relax while I inject this serum to cure your cancer."
"Whats in it?"
Attacking cancer with HIV? How could that possibly go awry? I feel like we should have a cure for HIV before we start injecting people with it.
WTF. Did scientists not learn anything from I Am Legend???
... I'm pretty sure this is exactly the start of I Am Legend
US Patent 5676977 (LOOK IT UP!!!)