Great story from the Singularity Hub (always worth a read to see what's coming in the future) about 'flu' viruses and a possible one-shot treatment.
Normally, we vaccinate against flu by using attenuated or killed viruses. This means that a damaged, non-infectious version of the flu virus is injected into the patient, triggering an antibody response. This is like being intoduced to a deadly enemy by photograph. Once you recognise the enemy, you are fore-warned. If the enemy invades, the immune system has a picture and destroys the threat. as the saying goes, 'fore-warned is fore-armed'.
The Singularity Hub story shows lateral thinking in action. The problem with viruses is that they mutate, as does everything, it's called evolution. So how do we protect against something that is constantly mutating?
Here comes the elegant bit:
Don't try to protect against the part of the virus that mutates, protect against the part that stays the same!
Of course, this may not be a case of lateral thinking, it's more likely (reading from the article) that it was an accident. But now that we have a tool to use, how far can we take it?
Is it possible that this approach can be used against HIV? I hope so. Flu is the beginning, and the article makes it clear that the vaccine is still in its infant stages, with trials in time for the 2011-12 flu season at the earliest.
After the good news that stem-cell research has indeed provided a cure for Chrohn's Disease, I feel optimistic. Research for the sake of research provides answers, sometimes it provides cures, sometimes more questions. We keep on searching.
(thanks to Singularity Hub)