Do Not Resuscitate: July 2008: Archives

July 17, 2008

HIV's Achilles Heel Discovered? genre: Do Not Resuscitate & Little Red Ribbon-Hood


Over the years, I've grown accustomed to regularly reading about the latest findings in HIV research. Early on, it was the only glimmer of hope in the environment of certain death that surrounded the disease. In recent years, the findings have enabled those infected to live relatively normal lives...albeit still vulnerable to the clandestine efforts of a clever virus.

Every now and then, I come across a study or a piece of research that titillates my hopes that science is on the verge of defeating the disease. A new article at Science Daily is just that. Yes, I'm always excited to read about the success of a drug still in trials or the discovery of a compound that shows great treatment potential. Unfortunately, such findings rarely offer the kind of hope found in this latest discovery.

According to this new report, a group of scientists believe they have found a site on the virus that offers the potential to permanently disable the virus in the body...rendering it incapable of infecting the cells of its host. Were that possible, the ramifications are mind boggling.

The Achilles heel, a tiny stretch of amino acids numbered 421-433 on gp120, is now under study as a target for therapeutic intervention. Sudhir Paul, Ph.D., pathology professor in the UT Medical School, said, "Unlike the changeable regions of its envelope, HIV needs at least one region that must remain constant to attach to cells. If this region changes, HIV cannot infect cells. Equally important, HIV does not want this constant region to provoke the body's defense system. So, HIV uses the same constant cellular attachment site to silence B lymphocytes - the antibody producing cells. The result is that the body is fooled into making abundant antibodies to the changeable regions of HIV but not to its cellular attachment site.

Paul's group has engineered antibodies with enzymatic activity, also known as abzymes, which can attack the Achilles heel of the virus in a precise way. "The abzymes recognize essentially all of the diverse HIV forms found across the world. This solves the problem of HIV changeability. The next step is to confirm our theory in human clinical trials," Paul said.

Unlike regular antibodies, abzymes degrade the virus permanently. A single abzyme molecule inactivates thousands of virus particles. Regular antibodies inactivate only one virus particle, and their anti-viral HIV effect is weaker.

"The work of Dr. Paul's group is highly innovative. They have identified antibodies that, instead of passively binding to the target molecule, are able to fragment it and destroy its function. Their recent work indicates that naturally occurring catalytic antibodies, particularly those of the IgA subtype, may be useful in the treatment and prevention of HIV infection," said Steven J. Norris, Ph.D., holder of the Robert Greer Professorship in the Biomedical Sciences and vice chair for research in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the UT Medical School at Houston.

While this research is still in its infancy, it is an indication of the cumulative benefit that can emerge as a result of prior studies of the virus and its function. Optimistic though it may be, I suspect that progress of this nature will at some point, in the near future, begin to dismantle the advantage the virus has held for nearly three decades. I would equate this protracted battle to defeat HIV with one of my favorite expressions, "Everything is shit until it isn't."

In other words, our perceptions can be inaccurate due to a reliance upon past history. Regardless, the ongoing absence of a definitive victory over the virus doesn't preclude the fact that one may be just around the corner. While projections are typically based upon prior experience (appropriately), probability tells us that time and research are apt to eventually close the knowledge gap and reveal a major finding capable of overcoming the advantage the virus has long held.

History is filled with examples of this phenomenon of unrevealed progress just waiting for that critical moment of substantiation. This discovery could be such a transformative moment. Let's hope so.

Tagged as: Abzymes, AIDS, Disease, Gay, Health, HIV, LGBT, Research, Science, Science Daily, Virus

Daniel DiRito | July 17, 2008 | 1:32 PM | link | Comments (0)
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July 9, 2008

Sam Harris On The Ramifications Of Rapture Rhetoric genre: Do Not Resuscitate & Hip-Gnosis

In the following video, an excerpt from the movie, The God Who Wasn't There, Sam Harris comments on the prevalence of those who believe in the rapture and the impact it can have on politics and global conflict. A full forty-four percent of Americans are inclined to believe that the end of days (the return of Jesus) will occur within their lifetime.

As I watched the other gentleman speak about his belief in the coming rapture, I took note of his linking of current events with verses from scripture to provide evidence of the coming end. His arguments reminded me of the rationale that has been created to suggest that the positions of celestial objects will dictate the personality traits we possess. It's virtually a never ending attempt to apply order to the random nature of our existence.

It's akin to those who state, in the aftermath of a natural disaster, that the lone survivor is a miracle, an indication that God has a plan for that individual, and a sign that God works in mysterious ways. Frankly, the only portion of that view that has a kernel of truth is the acceptance of an element of mystery that cannot be fully understood.

I equate that acknowledgment with a tacit admission that the world in which we live is primarily influenced by random events which are beyond our control. In my way of thinking, when religious folks attempt to apply heavenly attributions to these random acts of misfortune, they are merely seeking the means to accept the accompanying trauma.

While I don't begrudge their desire to establish coping mechanisms, I am troubled when they utilize these methods to judge others or to make predictions about the future. I say as much because when someone thinks they know the future, it often impacts the actions they take in the present. Hence, the fact that nearly half of all Americans believe the world will end in their lifetime is likely to modify the course of events. The blind faith they espouse may be consoling, but it is, in my opinion, embraced without any real supporting evidence.

As such, they're actions are apt to alter the future based solely upon unfounded expectations. In a number of scenarios, those actions have the potential to wreak havoc upon the lives of others as well as jeopardize the safety and stability of the world we all share. I don't believe this should be the case.

Tagged as: Bible, Conflict, Death, End of Days, Faith, Politics, Random, Rapture, Religion, Sam Harris, War

Daniel DiRito | July 9, 2008 | 8:36 PM | link | Comments (1)
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July 4, 2008

Jesse Helms: A Legacy To Die For? genre: Do Not Resuscitate


Controversial former North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms has died at the age of 86. The following two quotes from Jesse Helms are not, on their surface, offensive...which is why they are so important.

I believe they provide insight into understanding the motivations behind all of the other reprehensible Jesse Helms quotations. You see, what you will find in the hearts of many who are outspoken is an unfortunate and misguided righteousness derived from their religious beliefs. He had every right to his beliefs. Unfortunately, some of his actions suggest he didn't support the same for others.

"I want our government to encourage and protect freedom as well as our traditions of faith and family."

"I have tried at every point to seek God's wisdom on the decisions I made, and I made it my business to speak up on behalf of the things God tells us are important to Him."

Note in the first quote how the protection of freedom is modified by the need to support traditions of faith and family. In other words, freedom should be available to those whose notions of faith and family comports with his own. The inference is that those who do not support his notion of faith and family may not deserve the same freedoms.

In the second quote, we see the certainty to enact the beliefs expressed in the first quote...and to do so unabashedly. Again, this Helms quote implies that God spoke to him...which entitled him to speak his mind...regardless of who it injured.

Further, I suspect he was convinced that it also granted him the authority to pass legislation to abridge the rights of those who didn't follow his interpretation of God's edicts or to block the passage of measures intended to grant equality to those he deemed inferior.

Helms' legacy is therefore a testament to intolerance and intransigence. Rather than see himself as a cog in the wheel of humanity, he saw himself as the pilot designated to steer the course of his fellow man. In the end, his legacy is steeped in arrogance and wholly lacking in the ability to demonstrate the very humanity he must have believed his actions were upholding.

And now the quotes that the history books will undoubtedly use when defining Jesse Helms.

"I've been portrayed as a caveman by some. That's not true. I'm a conservative progressive, and that means I think all men are equal, be they slants, beaners, or niggers."
- Jesse Helms, North Carolina Progressive, February 6, 1985, quoted from the Democratic Alliance.

"There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy."
-States News Service, 5/17/88

"I've never heard once in this chamber anybody say to the homosexuals, 'stop what you're doing.' If they would stop what they're doing there would not be one additional case of AIDS in the United State."

"To rob the Negro of his reputation of thinking through a problem in his own fashion is about the same as trying to pretend that he doesn't have a natural instinct for rhythm and for singing and dancing."

"The Negro cannot count forever on the kind of restraint that's thus far left him free to clog the streets, disrupt traffic, and interfere with other men's rights."

"Homosexuals are weak, morally sick wretches."
- 1995 radio broadcast

"She's a damn lesbian. I am not going to put a lesbian in a position like that. If you want to call me a bigot, fine."
- Explaining why he was opposing the appointment of a woman for a cabinet post.

"They should ask their parents if it would be all right for their son or daughter to marry a Negro."
- In response to Duke University students holding a vigil after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, 1968

"We've got to have some common sense about a disease transmitted by people deliberately engaged in unnatural acts."
- Arguing for reduced AIDS funding, The New York Times, 1985

"These people are intellectually dishonest in just about everything they do or say,".... He added, "They start by pretending that it is just another form of love. It's sickening."
- From Variety

I doubt it's possible, but I've often wondered if the dead can look back and see their legacy. It would be nice to know that Jesse Helms would want to modify portions of the one he leaves.

Tagged as: Bigotry, Homophobia, Jesse Helms, Racism, Religion

Daniel DiRito | July 4, 2008 | 10:35 AM | link | Comments (2)
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