Though in planned future posts, you will read my thoughts (and criticisms, rants and bitches) about GMOs in our food supply, there are some other areas where I am fascinated with what they are doing with genetic modification. Though there is not enough known to completely understand any adverse effects that may result from this application of gene modifying, I am still amazed at what they are working on – MEDICINE for healing terminal illnesses.
Research has shown that certain, often deadly, diseases we have fought hard to eradicate in the past can be genetically modified and then used to attack other specific diseases.
“The Big C” – you know, cancer
There are over 300 known types of cancer, but advances in modern medicine may very well result in cures for cancer someday. It was realized decades ago that treating prostitutes for exposure to rabies by giving them the rabies vaccine appeared to cure their cervical cancer. The virus attacks cancer cells without affecting any of the healthy surrounding cells.
The Smallpox vaccine, genetically modifying the virus to seek out cancer cells by looking for specific proteins, has shown to infect tumors and destroy them.
The Mayo Clinic has been working with the Measles virus, modifying it with a new gene to treat multiple myeloma (bone marrow) cancer, infusing it into the patient’s bloodstream.
Adenovirus, responsible for the common cold, has been used by doctors at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center to treat glioblastoma, by injecting it directly into the patient’s brain tumor.
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has had great success treating pediatric leukemia by genetically modifying the HIV virus (the cause of AIDS) and using it in T-cell therapy. The T-cells are genetically programmed to identify whether cells are healthy and normal or are leukemia cells, killing the leukemia cells. Due to the modification in the HIV DNA, though the T-cell therapy is infused into the patient’s bloodstream, the therapy does not result in HIV.
“This is one of those things that’s a true paradigm shift, in this case, for cancer,” said Dr. Carl June, from the University of Pennsylvania Abramson Cancer Center. And I agree, it truly is.
Here’s the link to HBO’s Vice episode Killing Cancer, in the event you haven’t seen it and would like to know more. It was fascinating!!
Ebola – the continuing crisis
Watching Bob Simon’s last report the other day, I learned more about ZMapp, the drug used to treat a handful of Ebola cases last year. ZMapp was developed at Canada’s National Microbiology Lab in Manitoba. ZMapp is made from a specific variety of tobacco plant grown in western Kentucky, genetically modified to produce three different antibodies – antibodies required to destroy the Ebola virus in infected patients.
Unfortunately, it takes time for the plants to grow, and to produce the drug. [Mapp Biopharmaceutical originated the idea for ZMapp, starting with grant funding, until finally getting government funding to continue their work.] Though only nine doses of the drug were available originally, clinical trials are now underway in West Africa. Dr. Kent Brantly was the first human to use ZMapp, allowing him to recover from Ebola.
I hope Zmapp is the miracle key to treat Ebola they have been looking for. There are vaccines in work, as well, with research in this area continuing.
From what I heard, all the patients who recovered using these new treatments, regarding the various types of cancer and Ebola, initially became extremely ill after they were treated for as much as a week or so afterwards before showing signs of improvement.
I love the medical field, and sometimes think I missed my calling, probably should’ve been a doctor or a researcher 🙂
Do you find it fascinating that viruses are being used to treat cancer? Do you think there’s a difference between GMOs used for medicine and those used for food?
Just something I was thinking about . . .