Are these tombstones?
HIV is a beautiful virus. I guess I can say that because I’m HIV-negative, but also because it is.
HIV is a lentivirus, a type of retrovirus. Retroviral elements comprise 8% of our human DNA. They have largely made us who we are; an ancient retrovirus is why you were born from your mother, versus cracking out of an egg (Katzourakis 2010).
Our scientific elite have termed the 8% junk DNA. But the term is primarily an expression of our facile understanding of the universe, and who we are.
Incidentally, “junk DNA” makes a certain few of us naturally-immune to HIV. Specifically, people who make extra A3 protein have the ability to sabotage HIV’s reverse transcription process. These super A3-producers can have HIV components inside their cells, but HIV can’t put itself together. It’s a beautiful game inside super A3’s; like a million little TVs featuring as many eeny-meeny Michael Jordans jamming it in the face of the virus.
Most likely, super A3-producers, nicknamed elite controllers, gained their special powers because their ancestors paid a greater price: adverse retroviral attack. In response to deadly retroviral attack, a small number of us developed a special ability to fight back. Force, counter-force. In effect, viruses from long ago have already cured HIV.
But before you go wishing to be a super A3-producer (i.e. immune to AIDS), consider the flip side. Being uber-hardened against retroviruses might prevent you and your children from positive natural evolution, as well as make you “immune” to beneficial gene therapy. What is junk in one situation is treasure in another, making the collective diversity of our genome incredibly valuable.
Lentiviruses like HIV are the fingers of the universe, reaching into us. Yes, lentiviruses are playful, random, and painful; like the universe. In general, the evolutionary path from dust, to single-cell organism, to multi-celled being, to human involved pain and death, but was a good thing.
In the big picture, long-term absorption of HIV into our genome could turn out to be a significant antiviral or anti-cancer upgrade for our benelles. Or, maybe provide an allele to protect against modern pollution, increasing our lifespan. Even the universe herself doesn’t know but she’s smiling.
At the least, HIV has accelerated our capacity to understand lentiviruses, and thus genetic engineering, the true path to curing cancer, and ironically, HIV. Yes, HIV gives us the template for curing HIV.
Currently, we value pharma-based solutions to counter-attack HIV. But cocktails are a poor man’s way to deal with an elegant virus.
Don’t get me wrong; I admire the Gladstone Institutes’ recent pro-pharma discovery that the HIV-slip-into-AIDS is errant pyroptosis of our vast pool of resting CD4 T-helper cells (i.e. errant immune system suicide), which might be controlled by caspase 1 blocking drug VX-765 (Doitsh et al 2013). But I disagree the cells areerrant, because benelles know more than doctors. It’s as easy to conclude sleeping T cells are intelligently committing suicide before waking up as zombie HIV cells.
Look, I get it. People with HIV want a magic pill today, and corporations want to patent and deliver magic pills. People pay to stop pain, so there’s a large financial incentive.
The universe works outside the box, and so should we. Almost 5% of cats worldwide are infected with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), which you may think of as cat HIV.
With FIV, nature’s easel of reverse transcriptase and integrase is laid out in front of us. The government should be behind long-term research to leverage these feline lentivirus capabilities. Specifically, there should be funding to genetically engineer the equivalent A3 anti-viral protein in cats. This should be packaged as a standard lentivirus for cats. FIV cats would be “infected” with the “good” virus, which would slowly reverse FIV, or essentially keep FIV in check indefinitely. This would become a template for dealing with HIV.
AIDS deaths are a tragedy; and a reality. We should leverage the science behind the reality to begin practicing medicine that goes for long-term solutions versus what’s quick-and-whitewashed.
HIV is a beautiful virus. Inside itself is the solution for HIV, and much more. It holds the blueprints for where we are going as a human race.
Are these tunnels of light?