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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Uh oh...

Having recently read Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake I get a little edgy about the whole "let's mess with nature" process. There is undoubtedly a lot of good that can come from our increased understanding of genetics. There is also the potential for a whole lotta bad to happen as well.

Docuticker links to this announcement from the National Academies:
January 30 - Scientists studying pandemic influenza have made a breakthrough in understanding why the 1918 Spanish flu was so deadly. The researchers believe that an aberrant immune response caused tissue damage in the lungs and contributed to the mortality rate of the pandemic.

Using DNA recovered from the body of a victim frozen in Alaskan permafrost, scientists reconstructed the flu virus that killed over 40 million people in 1918. They then infected macaque monkeys with the virus so that its effects could be studied.

The virus caused an unregulated immune response within the monkeys. Immune cells that trigger inflammation, a natural response to infection, were present in much higher concentrations than expected. These cells infiltrated the lungs, causing severe tissue damage and contributing to the rapid death of the infected monkeys, the researchers reported in the journal Nature.
I hope they keep that bug under wraps.

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