Date: Sun, 27 Dec 1998 11:46:01 -0500
From: "Eddie Bollenbach"
Subject: Looking Ahead
I hope you are all having a happy holiday season:
I'm a big fan of work breaks. I get to read and think about the things I'm interested in. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a message about quasispeciation of RNA viruses. It got me hopped up, not because I believe it or because I think it will lead to a "cure" for PPS, but because it taught me something I never knew before: how the genes of polio could last so long inside nerve cells. Right off I want to make it clear that I do not endorse this as a cause of PPS, although it may be one of the conditions which exacerbate it, or, it may not. But it is generating a feeling of intrigue which is not easy to suppress. And I've noticed that a lot of things are happening in the PPS research scene at the same time. And some pretty big guns at the National Institutes of Health are reversing their earlier judgement that these particles within motor nerve cells of people with PPS are unimportant.
It was the French at the Pasteur Institute in Paris who felt the particles were important first. At the NIH there was disagreement with the French about this. Now both the French and the Americans are planning studies to understand the role of these mutated virus genes (the virus itself is gone) existing within cells can cause the slowing of new nerve-muscle connections to form at a greater rate than they disconnect. Or, they could be secondary to nerve cell death and be extruded and detected after cell death. Well, the new studies are designed to help untangle some of these fine points.
I find it fascinating that we have only known that germs (bacteria and viruses) were the cause of any disease for less than 150 years. And even at the beginning of this past century there was no universal acceptance among physicians and health officials of this. Pasteur in France and Koch in Germany formulated what we know today as the "Germ Theory of Disease". After Pasteur's achievements in Pasteurization (which saved the French Wine Industry), his disproving spontaneous generation (by asserting that microbes could only come from parent microbes, and not magically appear in rotting organic matter---or people--(which paved the road to an understanding of contagion), and his ability to grow the chicken cholera bacterium, weaken it, and use it for a vaccine, the French erected the Pasteur Institute. It has not diminished the memory of the giant whose name it bears.
It was the Pasteur Institute that first found the cause of AIDS, event though the CDC in Atlanta tried to take credit. And now, they have emphasized the polio virus genome idea of Post-Polio Syndrome. Here is a brief overview of some research I read yesterday from their website. I know its obtuse, I will try to translate after the passage.
"In the field of neurovirology, we study how Poliovirus (PV) establishes persistent infections in vitro and in vivo. Mutants viruses have been selected in vitro that are able to persistently infect non-neural cells. A single determinant can confer a persistent phenotype to a lytic strain in HEp-2 cells, but the presence of several mutations have a synergistic effect. These determinants are localized on the surface and inside the capsid, influencing interactions of the virus with its receptor. A mouse adapted poliovirus can cause paralytic poliomyelitis and persist in the central nervous system (CNS). The molecular and cellular mechanisms of this persistent infection and its possible effects on the host are being studied in vivo."
Here is my shot at simplifying what I consider to be the relevant material above. Viruses mutate into different types during an infection. The mutants are varied because differerent genes are changed. Cells which would normally be destroyed by the virus are not because of this. And transgenic mice have been developed and employed to serve as model organisms for a polio infection. And, the mice develop paralytic polio along with virus progeny (offspring) which persists in the Central Nervous System (brain and spinal cord). The French at the Pasteur Institute thought this was important enough to put on their Web page along with a plethora of other material on infectious disease.
Here in the States the National Institutes of Health are planning human research and needs volunteers. The studies will include immunologic, and viral detection work to try to understand exactly what is going on during the slow decline many of us are experiencing. So, the point is, heavy hitters are becoming involved in this aspect of PPS research. Probably for the same reason I am intrigued by it. Because it is interesting and something nobody knew about before. The National Institutes of Health is recruiting people with PPS for these studies. One further thing. If it turns out that this is an important aspect of PPS it is very possible that there will be therapies at some point.
Contact Professor Edward P. Bollenbach
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