Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cured by Lyme?

Lyme the great impersonator. It can get in to every cell in your body; brain, blood, organs. It can hide itself from the immune system. It can cause symptoms that mimic all sorts of other ailments. It can even effect the nervous system. Borrelia and it’s side kicks, Babsesia and Bartonella (among others), are on a mission to invade and conquer.

What if we could infiltrate their armies and take them down from within? Imagine harnessing their evil powers for good. Borrelia would be forced to rewire the nervous system instead of short circuiting it, and babesia to clean the blood instead of infecting it!

Sounds way too far fetched right? Well, maybe not.

Experiments have proven that bacteria can be manipulated and reprogrammed! Did you know that genetically modified strains of E. coli are being used to produce anti-malarial drugs? Scientists have genetically engineered a virus called M13 to mimic nerve tissue and promote re-growth. They envision using this “viral scaffolding” to help the paralyzed. Bioengineers envision a day in the not so distant future when microbes instead of causing disease, will be used to cure us of disease. (1)

Generally speaking, the idea of genetic modification scares the bejesus out of me. Most of my concerns stem from the fear of biological weapons and just plain old greed. Not to mention the theories and admissions that governments around the world have experimented with borrelia as a biological warfare agent.

There are two sides to every coin though. You cannot ignore the potential benefits of genetic modification. There is undoubtedly good to come from these biological advancements.

On the completely innocent side, is this story of Biological Engineering Students at MIT.

The students were stuck in a lab for hours waiting for E. coli to grow. B-o-r-i-n-g, and apparently, E. coli does not smell very good. It stinks, like poop. Tired of spending hours in a stinky lab, the students decided to remedy the situation by pulling the DNA out of a cell from a petunia plant and putting it into the E. coli cell. Instead of smelling like poop, the E. coli and the lab, now smelled like wintergreen!

This all makes me wonder about the possibilities for Lyme when it comes to the Western Fence Lizard. Have you heard about this fantastic creature? Something, entomologist suspect a protein, in the lizards blood kills the Lyme disease bacteria in the bellies of juvenile ticks! These ticks are no longer infected. They might still suck your blood, but they will not give you Lyme. (2)

How fantastic is that! I am all for harnessing the power of that protein, modify away! I think in the mean time, I might get a few as pets.

1. Kean, Sam. “The Quadrillion Bug Inside You” mental_floss Nov-Dec 2009, 39-41
2. Russell, Sabin. “Lizards Slow Lyme Disease in West” SFgate.com April 1998
The story of the students at MIT comes from an excellent podcast that also weighs the pros and cons, the fears and fantastics of messing with Mother Nature. It is called, (SO-CALLED) LIFE from WNYC radiolab.org

This post was cross posted on Ashley's blog lymenaide.com


Kim said...

Very, very interesting. Did you read Lab 257? Freaky stuff. And you're right it, if "they" created this, why can't they fix it?

Unknown said...

I like being able to think about the future positives of Lyme -- its ability to evade the immune system and get into places blood doesn't flow well could indeed be assets. And, I'd like to smell like petunias someday or at least not be mocked for doing lizard juice shots in the open.

Kim said...

Sign me up for some of whatever that lizard has! I have to start another picc on Monday. Hugs!