Ironically, new studies show that deadly viruses can actually be used to cure people. With these new discoveries, we can hope for a better future where we can find a way to cure certain fatal diseases. Below are examples of new discoveries on how viruses can help people.

Curing Diseases With HIV

A biotech company called Cell Genesys in Foster City, San Fransico, is researching a way to use the deadly HIV as a cure. HIV is the same virus that is responsible for AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), the disease that infected over 60 million people since it was diagnosed 20 years ago and has killed millions. HIV is so deadly because of its ability to penetrate human cells and quickly insert DNA.

Peter Working, Senior VP of Research and Development says, "Here, we have a disease caused by a very powerful virus, which we have now taken to try and use for the good."

Cell Genesys wants to research a way to use HIV as a carrier to insert good genes into people who have diseases such as hemophilia and Alzheimer’s. According to research, changing the DNA of patients using gene therapy could cure diseases.

"We've removed all the genes associated with the disease-causing part of the virus, leaving only those that allow us to get the gene into the cell," Working explained.

Eliminating Cancer with Oncolytic Virus Therapy

The word Oncolytic, "onco" means cancer, lytic meaning "killing". Oncolytic Virus Therapy is a therapy product created by Cell Genesys used to destroy cancer cells in the human body.

Oncolytic viruses are genetically engineered viruses that work like any other virus; they seek to penetrate a host cell, “trick” it into replicating more viruses until the host cell bursts. Oncolytic viruses are viruses that only seek, infect, and replicate in cancer cells. They destroy harmful cells and leave normal body cells largely unaffected.

Research of this type of therapy has existed since the 1940’s and it wasn’t till 1991 a study conducted at Georgetown University that used the herpes virus for the treatment of brain cancer, was the start of viotherapy. Virotherapy is a type therapy that uses the properties of viruses to help fight cancer.

Viruses and The Brain

Research shows that gene therapy can treat and pinpoint specific missing or flawed genes in nerve cells and supply them with healthy copies. It can also help send agents that guard vital cells or destroy dead cells. Although there are still obstacles in this therapy, many studies show that viruses can help the human body. These studies show that new therapies can be created that are more powerful, selective, and longer lasting than traditional medications.

New research shows that the effects of gene therapy are long-lasting, causes less side effects, can be targeted to protect brain neurons, eliminate cancer cells in the brain, and correct biochemical deficiency. It can also direct production of helpful brain molecules that cannot be sent to the brain by blood because they are too large.

Many different tests are being to done to see if this new form of treatment can help cure or improve the problems made by diseases. Using this method of treatment, scientists are testing so see if they can cure injuries to the nervous system like spinal cord injuries and stroke. They are also testing diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and defects in the set of genes a person may be born with.

Brain Tumor Destroying Virus

A research led by Dr. Peter Forsyth, a cancer researcher and physician with the Faculty of Medicine and the Alberta Cancer Board, shows that a naturally-occuring virus can actually destroy human brain caner cells. The virus is called Respiratory Enteric Orphan (reovirus) which is commonly found in the respitory and gastrointestinal tract of people.

Studies are showing that reovirus infects and destroys cancer cells, leaving normal cells untouched. Lab tests show that this virus works very effectively, destroying 20 out of the 24 cell cultures.

Even more encouraging, 9 out of 10 mice implanted with human tumor cells and injected with the reovirus survived for 90 days. The mice treated with live reovirus not only lived longer, but were also proved to be healthier.

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Project created by James Li. Sir Winston Churchill High School Grade 11. 2004.