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A little question about an idea

Michael Poidinger mikep at uniwa.uwa.edu.au
Tue Oct 11 16:38:51 EST 1994

In article <1994Oct10.113603.74469 at kuhub.cc.ukans.edu> mcginnis at kuhub.cc.ukans.edu (Michael McGinnis) writes:
>From: mcginnis at kuhub.cc.ukans.edu (Michael McGinnis)
>Subject: A little question about an idea
>Date: 10 Oct 94 11:36:03 CDT

>I have an idea to bounce off of someone who knows about viruses.

OK, news reply rather than email so that everyone else can see the response...

>I write a little science fiction and I like to keep my ideas close
>enough to real science so that someone who actually knows about the
>field (physics, biology, whatever) would have to think for a few
>moments to find any flaws.  If the idea is that plausible then I feel
>it's probably good enough for sf.


>Idea for fighting retroviruses:

>Manufacture a little retrovirus.  It has RNA coding for a cell surface
>protein that will trigger an immune response.  But, the retrovirus has
>no code for reverse transcriptase and so cannot become active on 
>its own.

aieee!  Nope, have to stop you right there.  reverse trancriptase (RT) is the 
enzyme responsible for turning the RNA retrovirus into an integrated DNA copy. 
 The enzyme you probably want to kill is rev or a related control protein that 
determines whether the virus is sitting dociley in the cell or replicating and 
killing it.

>Inject a person and these little viruses inject their code into cells
>around the body, but only in cells actively infected by retroviruses
>does the code become active.  In those cells surface protein flags are
>manufactured and the immune system easily finds the actively infected

Fine. In fact, generally speaking this is 
one of the main ways that the body fights infection.  Viruses (many, not only 
retro) enter the cell, begin replication, cause expression of virus specific 
antigens on the cell surface, the body recognizes these antigens as false and 
targets the cell for termination with complement or cytotoxic T-cells.  The 
only reason diseases are a problem is that some of the pathogens are too good 
at evading, overwhelming and/or destroying the immune response.

>Alternatively, the "safe" retrovirus has code that causes a cell to
>lyse (do I have the word right... dissolve/explode?).

Generally speaking, this is what retroviruses do anyway, without any outside 
manipulation. Lyse is the correct word.   

I am not sure what the aim of your story is.  So far it sounds more like a 
basic text book on immunology than a work of fiction.

Dr Mike Poidinger        
Microbiology, UWA       ==> Animal Welfare NOT Animal Rights       
mikep at uniwa.uwa.edu.au 

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