MIT researchers have uncovered a viral signature that all viruses share which just might let us kill any virus. Past approaches to attacking diseases have focused on fighting each disease individually. This is an expensive and ultimately unscalable approach, as any systems engineer would recognize in a second. You can’t deal with every system as an island.
The drug, called DRACO (for double-stranded RNA activated caspase oligomerizers), has already been tested on 15 viruses, including the common cold and Dengue fever. All of which, including the common cold, polio, H1N1, and a stomach virus, have been successfully killed by the treatment. A strange omission seems to be HIV, but I’m sure it’s at the front of plenty of researcher’s minds right now. DRACO works by inducing cell suicide, in cells containing any viral dsRNA. This rapidly kills infected cells without harming uninfected cells. As a result, DRACO should be effective against virtually all viruses, rapidly terminating a viral infection while minimizing the impact on the patient.
It’s good to see researchers out there thinking holistically. This research, if it works out and that is always a big if, has the potential to revolutionize medicine. Thousands of biotech firms would have to change their approach overnight. Instead of looking at each viruses separately, the looked at them as viral systems. This is the convergence of systems thinking, computers and biology. This is Singularity stuff. While I don’t necessarily agree with Kurzwiel that the Singularity is just around the corner, it’s stuff like this that makes me rethink my position. The mark of a good mind is fluidity anyway. Always be willing to change your mind if new information proves your old ideas wrong. That said, I still think the Singularity is a little farther off than we want it to be, unfortunately. It’s a little too close to another human collective desire projection known as the Rapture or end of the world. We’ve been dreaming about the end of the world for as long as we starting worrying about everything around us. Nobody knows the day or the hour. It’s fun to predict though.
This is the type of story that makes me root for humanity. You just hope it’s true. If it is, these guys are probably already on the shortlist for the Noble prize.