Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Genetics Research Could Help Disarm Deadly Viruses

07.07.2004


Taken to its ultimate outcome, the research that biology professor Dr. Steve Howard is working on could help disarm deadly retroviruses such as HIV or SARS.



Howard, associate professor of biology at Middle Tennessee State University, would be the first to advise against making that kind of quantum-leap claim. It’s much too early. But assuming that the research that led to the polio vaccine first crawled, then walked, then charted a new course for civilization itself, Howard’s discovery is more than significant.

Co-authored by Drs. J.F. Fontanari and A. Colato of the Universidade de Sao Paulo in Brazil, Howard’s study was published recently in the Physical Review Letters, the top international journal in physics.


"I became aware of a paper these two theoretical physicists published, and it turns out they were interested in some of the same questions that I had been interested in," Howard said.

Trained as a population geneticist and evolutionary biologist, Howard had always been intrigued by the process in which organisms become adapted to their environments. He was particularly interested in understanding how the process of evolution affects the relationship between disease-causing organisms and other organisms that are infected by these organisms. Research over the past several years points to a genetic base for these infections.

"There are certain sequences of DNA in these viruses and other disease-causing organisms that enable them to infect humans or other species that have certain sequences of DNA. In other words, there is a lock-and-key mechanism in determining the genetic basis to infections," he explained.

"What we’re interested in is understanding the potential for random mutations to accumulate in the genetic material of viruses to the point where there are so many mistakes in the DNA or RNA that they can no longer reproduce or maintain themselves."

Howard said that determining the expected rates at which these mutations could accumulate all distills down to a math problem. It was with this realization that the three researchers linked up and discovered they could make more headway by combining their efforts.

"We used a mathematical approach—known as ’branching process theory’—to generate a theoretical prediction concerning the rate at which random mutations could accumulate in the genetic material of viruses like HIV," Howard continued. "The result we got was extraordinary. What we found was that under certain conditions, the rates that these mistakes can accumulate is actually accelerated by the process of natural selection. This is surprising, as natural selection typically leads to a reduction in the number of mutations. … The implication is that we could accelerate the rate at which these virus populations go extinct."

If viruses like HIV accumulate a sufficient number of these genetic mistakes, then they will cease to function. Howard compared the genetic corruption to making changes on a blueprint for a building.

"How many times would those changes improve the building? he posed. "Not very often."

Howard said he hopes that other biologists will get involved and do research on this acceleration process. Careful not to overstate the ramifications, he emphasized again how important this step is in the entire process of speeding up viral degeneration.

"What we show is that during that phase where things are transferred—at the point when they start to invade your body—that’s where this process of acceleration potentially can take place. The question is, how can we take advantage of that?"

Emerging new diseases have scientists concerned, Howard noted. Many diseases are jumping boundaries. SARS somehow made the leap beyond China, its apparent point of origin.

"Viruses replicate quickly, and new strains can evolve like wildfire. … Viruses can also adapt quickly to changes in the environment."

Howard said he and his colleagues in Brazil will continue to work together.

"We have just obtained a solution for the problem in situations where population size fluctuates," he added. "I am now writing up the results for publication."

| newswise
Further information:
http://www.mtsu.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Zebrafish's near 360 degree UV-vision knocks stripes off Google Street View
22.06.2018 | University of Sussex

nachricht New cellular pathway helps explain how inflammation leads to artery disease
22.06.2018 | Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Temperature-controlled fiber-optic light source with liquid core

In a recent publication in the renowned journal Optica, scientists of Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) in Jena showed that they can accurately control the optical properties of liquid-core fiber lasers and therefore their spectral band width by temperature and pressure tuning.

Already last year, the researchers provided experimental proof of a new dynamic of hybrid solitons– temporally and spectrally stationary light waves resulting...

Im Focus: Overdosing on Calcium

Nano crystals impact stem cell fate during bone formation

Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Graphene assembled film shows higher thermal conductivity than graphite film

22.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

Fast rising bedrock below West Antarctica reveals an extremely fluid Earth mantle

22.06.2018 | Earth Sciences

Zebrafish's near 360 degree UV-vision knocks stripes off Google Street View

22.06.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>