Science News, October 10, 2009
Now that we are heading into the flu season I thought it was appropriate to talk about how wonderful viruses are.
Maybe they're not, but I thought it would be nice to talk about how wonderful some viruses are. Specifically, using the power of the little buggers to help monkeys and, one hopes, people with various problems.
One area I find particularly fascinating is the area of viral gene therapy. The idea is to use a virus as way of sending genes to cells of an animal after they are mature. While some genes are only important for the structure and growth of an organisms, other genes affect the way that an organism functions after it is grown. In the case described in the Science News article, the genes enable the eyes of a grown monkey to detect frequencies of light that they could not previously see.
This particular study has all kinds of implications. The article is mostly about how neurologists were surprised that a full grown monkey's visual system could accommodate the new colors. The thing I find really cool is the almost offhand way that using a virus is being used in this experiment.
During my lifetime, I have seen the concept of using viruses for this sort of thing go from the realm of theory to the point where it barely raises an eyebrow.
Then there is the whole meddling with the human genome business, but I think I can stretch that out into a whole other posting.
At any rate, I like this sort of news. I find the ability of humanity to turn something that is often times an agent of destruction (think disease causing viruses) into an agent of help.