Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Ultimate Supremo..

Humans are at the top-most of evolutionary ladder. Most evolved coz Brain is evolved yes, also the Immune system i.e. the defense mechanisms operating in the body are extremely sophisticated. And then there are other species, enormous variety that conveys to us the unbelievable diversity that exists in our eco-system. Then there is competition between them all. Inter-species, Intra-species, inside the organism with pathogens, outside the organism with the environment. The race towards survival.

We humans act smart here. We formulate methods for keeping other species under-control. We categorize them, give them bharry scientific names, randomly harm their parts, destroy them, blah blah. And while all the pandemonium is up, a non-living particle enters the cell, smartly forces the cell to do the reproduction for it, destroys the cell to go attack some more cells. Yes, I talk of viruses; Precisely what this post is all about.

The viral particle is like the most compact traveling kit! Either DNA or RNA with some associated basic proteins. It doesn't even have reproducing machinery, it uses the host's! We keep wondering here whether to club them in living or non-living things and meanwhile, it has already made several copies of its own and is all sett to kill the host cell. Our supreme friend doesn't even care about not being in the evolutionary ladder as it fails to fit in the definition of evolution. Ha ha, it fails to fit in the definition of living things.
Our high-class pharmacological research has yet not been able 2 find a remedy to any viral infection, and I am no bluff. All we do by medicines is subside symptoms and help body activate its own immune response to take care of them, the viral particles. And Immune cells are smart, just that virus is smarter.
Well, cells recognize that thr is some jhol up with the body. They go identify the problem. Do all the mehnat, take 14 days and produce antibodies against them and when the antibodies come back to the site, they can't find the virus. Why? coz its changed! Its structure, conformation everything! Now antibodies are specific, so all the work is down the drain. And this happens too many number of times, depending on the genome of the virus of course. For HIV [Human Immuno-deficiency Virus], an HIV infected person can have as much has 100 types of viruses circulating in the body. But then, AIDS is all together a new story.

Not too long ago, in 1983, the first case of AIDS was reported. AIDS = Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome. The world got into tight spot and efforts of over-coming the virus began. But the virus spread, so far-wide that now its 25 years since its discovery and every part of the world has the same story. But, no-one dies of AIDS. Then why make so much noise? coz AIDS affects the very cells of the immune system. The defense mechanism of the whole body collapses, and body is susceptible to any attack. People can die of common cold in AIDS, coz body can't cure it, coz the cells who do the curing themselves are down with HIV. And this is the most-naive description :-|

Then efforts were concentrated on prevention. Now, all of us know that AIDS spread through 3 means. What we don't know is,
*~* The max amount of transmission of the virus in the world is via Homo-sexuality.
*~* Least cases of AIDS are seen in countries where prostitution is legal.
*~* Condoms are not a full-proof method to stop HIV transmission.
*~* Mother can transmit the virus into her child even after birth.
*~* Kissing can cause transmission of the virus.
*~* AIDS can be a cause of Cancer.
*~* Patients can live healthy life upto 7-8 years after detection. Under good medical guidance. But detection can take 5-10 years too, depending on strength of immune system.
*~* AIDS generated in Africa, went to Great Britain and US, which led to the scattering to the whole world.
*~* Blood once tested HIV negative, need not be so always. Prefer person-to-person transfusion.
*~* Use of needles, for tattooing, drug-abuse, even blood testing, has caused various cases of AIDS world-wide.

Shocked? Its better to be aware, don't you think?

P.S. This is an awareness post. For other detailed information, please refer to the comments. I am so glad that the comments have touched various aspects of the disease and some are more exhaustive than the post :-P
Yes, I am passionate about science. :-)


vishvsambyal said...

Well written article there....yupp better to be aware always

Express said...

@ sambY
Hey, thanks. Glad you could relate.

SwAThi.... said...

Glad u mentioned that Africa thing...coz its sad that lots of countries have blamed India for starting it...

Alok said...

1. I love this post. Excellent topic.

2. Time for some thinking.
You say that the immune system is not able to combat the AIDS virus because it changes its constitution before the immune system can adapt itself.

So going by that logic, the best way to combat the virus would be to use itself against itself. I mean, who would know an AIDS virus better than the virus itself?

So we create a variety of the AIDS virus that, instead of surviving off the host, survives off by the original AIDS virus itself, and then when there are no more left, the anti-AIDS virus will eradicate itself through starvation.

Of course, this is just a hare-brained plan with absolutely little knowledge of the real situation, but it is indeed worth a thought, what say you? :D

Aditi ''Jiggs'' said...


nicely written gal
yup viruses are one thing that has amazed me too
as it on the 'border line of being alive' :P
the smart jerk uses other to do its dirty work :P
n spreads like wide fire

btw wt alok mentioned above was an excellent hypothesis
u cd actually work on it gal, remember ur phd
this time i am being really serious
i dono if thr is any research been carried out on it but surely made sense to me

Express said...

@ Swati
India has contributed largely in helping the virus spread. Some people speculate India to rename as the "AIDS capital of the world". But even Africa can't be blamed for starting the whole thing. Now that you talked of the origin, I would mention all I know of it,

It is a known fact that HIV always was present in African green monkeys, just that it never showed any reactions with their immune system. So, many hypothesis have come forward regarding the way it could have entered the human species, but we would never know which one is right, I quote them underneath.

1. Some speculate that by some ancient ritual of some African tribe, intercourse between these particular monkeys and humans could have initiated the whole thing.

2. Proly in the similar background, drinking of monkey blood or even crude transfusion has been speculated. Well, no-one would know...

3. The most convincing hypothesis is a massive one.
according to some researchers, when the British started colonizing in Africa, they employed a lot of Africans to work or them. But ill health of the local population affected efficiency, and well famines in Africa are no new story. So, than transporting medicines all the way, The English, set-up laboratories there and experimented with available resources to experiment on and extract Antibodies, so that the local population doesn't fall ill that frequently. Some of these experiments involved extractions from the Green monkeys blood or serum and were injected in a lot of people simultaneously only to later realize that these caused the Immune system to initially boost and then absolutely decline. Later causing secondary infections which led to death.

But as the HIV story was not known, by any of these methods, the disease didn't hit the global scenario till Britisher-sailors took home the virus via the sex-workers at the ports.

The disease could've been around for quite some time, but no1 came to know what people were actually dying of. Moreover, no-one wanted to dirty their hands in a sexually transmitted disease till they themselves were caught by the impact of it.

If some1 has actually read the whole thing, blaming each other while the virus over-takes us, is stupidity. This is an awareness post. The only way out is making life better for the patients and prevention of the disease.

Yes, I am passionate about anything related to science.

Express said...

@ alok
Imaginative thinking, very, kudos!
But an interesting plot for fiction writing I must say. Might have real-life application, science has no dimensions, but as far as I can think there is a basic problem in your hypothesis.

Attenuated [injecting inactivated form of the pathogen] vaccination was tried out for AIDS, like its done for many popular diseases only to realize that the virus acts like a good boy outside the cell, well its not living, what do you expect? But once inside the host, virus is as virulent as it can be.
Manipulation of it genome is another option, but the basic problem is, it has bare minimum nucleotide bases, If you play with them, majority chances are either you will produce a genome that is non expressible into an organism; OR produce a more virulent strain and circulate that in the population; OR just do what has already been done in attenuated case, produce more AIDS patients.

Targeting for the cell membrane is what most researchers are working for, coz max medicines concentrate in that field. But with AIDS its not working coz multiple kinds of the virus are already present in the patient before the disease gets detected. Viruses are too small, think of a 100 nanometer structure coding for hardly 5-10 proteins!

PLUS, I don't think HIV of different kids identify themselves. Their only objective is to survive, not show brotherhood.
AND! MOST IMPORTANTLY! It cannot "survive off" other viruses coz the other viruses have nothing to give our manipulated virus. Remember? They just have some RNA and some proteins used for binding with the cell's DNA.

Under any case, if it is still HIV, and if it has to survive, it has to live off the host only.

P.S. engineer hai, uski tarah hi sochega :P
Never-the-less, lovely try. Very very intriguing! :-)

Express said...

@ jiggs
Thanks for the appreciations man, every pure science student, I am sure, at some time or another, had admired the phage.

I loved ut description of the whole thing, might sound juvenile, but man, they are supreme!

Refer to my reply 2 alok :-)
And yea, working for such a cause shall be an honor. But I would prefer to work for acceptance of the patients by the society, prolong their life, and not only in quantity, but also quality of it, and scientifically, prevention; than worrying about its cell membrane proteins and killing it inside host cell n all...
Stopping the spread is the current call of the day baby! ;-)


SwAThi.... said...

Wow..i mean seriously i didnt know such stuff...

But do u read such stuff from some sites?Can i get a few of those links?I think maybe even i can get hooked on to it...

Aditi ''Jiggs'' said...

gal u made me proud :D

i can see a potential scientist in you
ur passion rocks gal


Express said...

@ swati

I am a pure science student of Biochemistry i.e. Microbiology and Chemistry with touches of biotechnology; and a research [RnD] aspirant.

Well, I believe that websites give you information and books, knowledge. Most of the things I replied to your comment was based on either stuff I picked up from some teacher's lecture or some book. Alok's reply on the contrary is my speculation. Might not be convincing, might have follies, I have tried my best.

If you really wanna read, 'Brock's microbiology' gives an amazing take on AIDS. Among websites, who cannot do google search man....

Getting hooked just needs the passion. Talk to anyone who is suffering from it, you will get what you want.

@ Jiggs
Yes, I would love to trust your "third eye" for once, :-D
Lets hope I put my potentials to good use. Thanks a ton gal. You know your appreciation matters the most :-)

Cheers to you too!!

Alok said...


Let's continue with this speculative thingy, it serves as a stimulus to my imagination, and at the same time to yours too. Plus, I'm learning loads of stuff here.

Okay, I'm now aware that vaccination isn't a viable solution to this little devil here.

But yes, I'm talking of modifying the Genome, or Genetic Engineering as they call it. The "reasons" you've given here are excuses; there is still a possibility that, when properly studied and understood, the AIDS virus' genetic structure can be modified well enough to suit our needs. Or is that possibility totally ruled out?

My (very speculative, non serious) theory is that, under the same conditions, the AIDS virus and the anti-AIDS virus will modify themselves similarly. So now the anti-AIDS virus will be able to identify its kin, and "eat" (or "destroy") it. Instead of making the human body as host, the anti-AIDS will make the AIDS virus its host.

Now you have a valid point when you say that the AIDS virus itself cannot serve as food. So I suggest that the anti-AIDS virus will accept only a special substance as food, something that is supplied externally to the host, not made by the host.

Though I think this is going too out of hand. :D

Express said...

@ alok
There are so many myths associated with Genetic engineering, you are talking of one of them. I would like to clarify that, "Just by adding a gene or modifying a gene of a genome, it does NOT get expressed in that organism". Coz even if you somehow manage to get the gene transcribed, the mRNA will be foreign to the cell and there is a high possibility that it will be eliminated in post-translational modifications.

I talk of cell coz even when everything is known about human cells, the rate of success of aimed engineering is not more than 1-2% And well, nothing much is even known about HIV.

Coming back to "anti-HIV modifying like HIV". If you have an idea about reverse trancriptase, you would also know that HIV being an RNA virus, shows high rate of random mutations. Now, the anti-HIV [if alive inside cell] will have the same mode of replication, so same randomness prevails, so, will not modify similar to each other.

LOL at the special substance going out of hand :-P
Realize this mitra, the cell is like a reservoir of nutrients for a tiny virus. W/e you provide it with, it will prefer to use cell's machinery. See, growth for a virus is only replication!!!! It needs ribosomes to work for it and nucleotides and protiens to be a part of it, tu artificially provide karega, and host cell foreign material chup-chap le-lega?

How the end, whatever you say might sound scientifically high-fundo. But please extrapolate it to a living human being with crores of infected cells and many many types of HIV. Even if you manage to engineer something that "destroys" HIV, to help it propagate throughout the body you have to lyse the cell? What is your objective alok? To save the cell? and after that, the whole body?

And after you far-fetched objective is achieved, you have to kill the thing you introduced in massive numbers in the first place! how will you do that now? introduce another engineered molecule? woh aadmi mar jayega alok, uska already immune system dead hai. :-P

P.S. I am learning the intricate details of the AIDS and HIV as a whole. Incase, there is a possibility of application, lets keep our minds open, I ll surely let u knw :-D

Express said...

Also I would like to add that we are going too out of hand formulating theories to cure the disease, as that was NOT the objective of the post.

I respect the virus you see, it has broken all stereotypes and still incessantly survives inside the mighty us.

Virology is an entire science, I don't even know 1% of it to comment.

Aditi ''Jiggs'' said...

lets take this discussion some whr else :P
i am lovin it

Alok said...


Let me specify my objectives clearly here. I am not trying to provide a cure here. That would be stupid, because I hardly know anything about the whole way this thing works.

Which brings me to my objective. My objective is to learn how this vile organism works. In other words, I am trying to keep myself aware. My method to do so involves an imaginary hypothesis, which is based upon information that you provided. It provides me an incentive to look deeper into the whole scenario, I'm already learning things.

For example, I had forgotten all about viruses and the way they work until this discussion.

However, if you think this is hurting the objective behind your post, I'll stop here.

Alok said...

I've found something relevant:

Viral Vectors.

Check out the section "Key Properties of a Viral Vector" which clearly specifies that we can, and already have, tailored and modified viruses to perform functions which we desire.

Then check out the section under "Retroviruses" which says:

Retroviral vectors can either be replication-competent or replication-defective. Replication-defective vectors are the most common choice in studies because the viruses have had the coding regions for the genes necessary for additional rounds of virion replication and packaging replaced with other genes, or deleted. These virus are capable of infecting the their target cells and delivering their viral payload, but then fail to continue typical lytic pathway, which would typically result in cell lysis and death.

Now the purpose of these Viral Vectors is to introduce some genetic material into cells. Instead of that, we modify their objective to either target and combat the infected virus cells or to introduce information into the infected cell to combat the virus.

According to me, randomness is not a valid argument, because had the virus been truly random, it would not have produced similar results in different patients. There is something about the virus that is stored within the virus itself, which keeps its functioning intact, basically the protocol it follows. And my "scheme" here is to use that something against the virus itself. So you see, if I introduce this "anti-HIV" virus into the system, it will modify itself in the same way as the original HIV did, and hence be able to identify the mutated HIV and combat it. And in the end, it won't be able to replicate, and hence it will destroy itself. :D

P.S. Forgive me for this one, couldn't hold it back. :D

Express said...

@ alok
Oh yes! how could I forget about M13 phage being used for amplification of a gene! yes yes, I agree....

But then these are all DNA viruses, the ones which are used in molecular biology.. I dont know of any undergoing reverse transcription there.

I will give you an answer to it, there HAS 2 b something! Meanwhile lets talk awareness plz :-P


Aditi ''Jiggs'' said...

u guys have given me a reason to use my rusted brain :P

Express said...

@ jiggs
"they say use it or lose it"
man, too late, u've lost it :-D

Sach said...

That was a great great great post!!
Awareness is required all over, amongst everyone...

Nice blog!

Aditi ''Jiggs'' said...

i have beyond lost it

Express said...

@ Sach
Welcome to my page, thanks a ton for all the appreciation.

Yes, Awareness is the only way out currently. I don't say that cure is impossible. But, honestly we are no-where close to finding a cure and even if it is found, for it to sink in amongst the common will sure take some time. Meanwhile, all we can do is, stop the virus from infecting more people.

I am so glad that tis post was well received :-)Thank-you for the comment.


Express said...

@ jiggs
Now toh I think, you never had it :-|

ladki, kuch kar...nahi toh pachvi paas se champu?


Aditi ''Jiggs'' said...

haa yaar
kya karu
kuch suggestion de