The next couple of posts will deal with, what I think are, the most magical and amazing beings on the planet…viruses. A press release that was first picked up February 2, 2010 by Popular Science boasts of the discovery of a new chemical LJ001 that has the capability of acting as a broad spectrum anti-viral. The actual press release starts out by saying, “Viruses are insidious creatures…” and then goes on to discuss the potential of LJ001 to put an end to some of the world’s most deadly human diseases including AIDS, Ebola, and hemorrhagic fever.
The development of such a drug has the potential to ease human loss and suffering and contribute to “society’s concept” of a utopian existence. On the other side of this we must consider the compelling research that suggests viruses could be “the little man behind the curtain”, with regards to evolution of life on this planet. I’m concerned that science doesn’t yet know enough about how viruses contribute to every aspect of our existence to use a drug like this safely. For example, the primary gene responsible for producing syncytin , which forms the placenta, comes from the activation of a retrovirus that is embedded in the DNA of all mammals’ germ cells. Syncytin is very similar in structure to the viral envelop that LJ001 attacks. This is just one tiny example of how viruses play a part in our existence.
On February 24th, National Geographic will be re-airing the documentary, “The Virus Hunters” which discusses theories on how viruses have been a powerful force in facilitating the ever-evolving complexities of life on this planet. This one of the most interesting documentaries I’ve ever seen.
One aspect of discussion pertains to an experiment in which a virus is introduced into the brains of prairie voles causing behavioral changes that resulted in the promiscuous males becoming monogamous. The original article that appeared in Nature.by