Author: Sarah Dittmer, Aaron Wessels, Cameron Westbury and Zack Bruno
When you hear about viruses, you might automatically reach for a bottle of hand sanitizer or rush off to get the latest vaccination. However, the viruses we fear may actually be the cures to many major diseases that affect our generation. Unbeknownst to many people, there are several benefits to exploring the healing potential of viruses. Researchers have had success in utilizing “dead” viruses against previously incurable diseases. Although their results were realized in a controlled laboratory setting, the research has been very promising.
Scientists from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa have experimented with a genetically modified adenovirus which showed potential for curing Hepatitis B. According to the World Health Organization Web site, Hepatitis B is “the most common infectious disease in the world today.” They estimate that Hepatitis B has infected two billion people worldwide and kills an estimated 600,000 people each year. The virus is particularly prevalent in third-world countries where vaccines and high quality treatments are insufficient.
Other well-known viruses may have healing potential as well. You may cringe at the thought of contracting the Herpes virus. However, Herpes may be the key to curing brain cancer. According to research done at Georgetown University, Herpes A can be turned into “cancer fighting agents” that target and destroy cancerous cells. Further developments in cancer-fighting viruses have been made by Dr. Peter Forsyth. He found that nine of 10 mice with tumors responded positively to the cancer-fighting virus.
Sadly, America has fallen behind in the promising field of viral research. As the biggest producer of pharmaceuticals, we have the technology and infrastructure to make real progress toward curing cancer and many other diseases. Furthermore, we may lose many scientists and intellectuals to nations that are devoting their resources to this promising field. The Chinese have already become leaders in viral research and have produced real results. For example, the Chinese company Gendicine became the first company to produce a gene therapy product in Oct. 2003. According to the company’s released reports, the product uses a virus to target head and neck cancers, and has been administered in place of, or along with, radiation, chemotherapy and surgery. The scientists injected the virus into the tumor area, where it then targeted the cancerous cells. According to the Journal of Clinical Investigation, there are “neutralizing antibodies” inside the vaccine that remove any other viral activity. The virus has been shown to be successful, with many patients making full recoveries.
Even the deadly HIV virus has healing potential. According to Senior VP of Research and Development at the biotech company Cell Genesys Peter Working, the HIV virus could be used to cure degenerative diseases such as hemophilia and Alzheimer’s. An injected “dead” strain of the HIV virus could distribute antibodies throughout the body. HIV is such a powerful virus that researchers should be able to harness its healing potential and use it for good.
Sarah Dittmer, Aaron Wessels, Cameron Westbury and Zack Bruno are all undeclared first-years. They Can be reached at [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], and [email protected], respectively.
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