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Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 8:29 am UTC
by aewgliriel
What came to mind for me is the Feed/Deadline book series where they cured cancer with a virus, did the same thing with the common cold, the two melded, and now the virus makes zombies . . .

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 8:55 am UTC
by starabo
nico wrote:They did not stop doing hearth transplants after the first ones that had complications, did they?


Thank god they didn't. My house has been much warmer ever since we switched to a woodburning stove.

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:03 am UTC
by nathanmacinnes
BlueLabel wrote:I'm sorry but I was pretty disappointed with this comic. I get that Mr. Munroe is probably not a specialist in genetics methodology but lentiviral transduction is a standby technique in biological/life science labs. A perfunctory review of modern gene therapy approaches couldn't possibly overlook this technique. It's a shame that it's been so grossly mischaracterized here. Usually the science jokes turn on the readers' understanding of the concept being discussed - here it's only funny if the reader is ignorant of the technique.

Just to clarify, there is nothing new or novel about using modified retrovirus to deliver genetic material to human cells. This is an incredibly common lab protocol. I was transducing glioma cell lines as an undergrad. That this is what's been highlighted as the innovative aspect of this research is rather shocking to me.


I think he was getting at the irony of curing cancer with cancer and curing that cancer with HIV. Yes, it's probably better if you've never heard of the treatment before, but it gives others a chance to reflect on the irony of it.

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:41 am UTC
by Alastriona
This is really cool and all, but my biggest concern is if this pass all trials and in some years becomes available as a cure, will it be economically viable or will this treatment cost so much that it will be reserved only for the rich? I mean how hard is it to create these cancer killing cells?

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:58 am UTC
by Arancaytar
While completely different, this brings to mind the TGN1412 trial in 2006 (also aimed at T-cells, but only at stimulating them with antibodies, not modify them). That would have been another fun point in the conversation. "Oh yeah, they tried to get T-cells to go after leukemia before, but gave all participants immediate catastrophic organ failure instead. And that was without any HIV."

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:59 am UTC
by Iv
Alastriona wrote:This is really cool and all, but my biggest concern is if this pass all trials and in some years becomes available as a cure, will it be economically viable or will this treatment cost so much that it will be reserved only for the rich? I mean how hard is it to create these cancer killing cells?

They will make it expensive.
Unless we manage to get a serious reform of the intellectual properties laws.

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 10:00 am UTC
by dms33
boothby171 wrote:Just wanted to be the first to say: CANE TOADS


Well played. That was my first thought as well. :-)

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 10:00 am UTC
by blueroses67
No, it wouldn't make you HIV+. They're using a retrovirus, yes - retroviruses will paste their own sequences into the genome of the cell they infect, which is useful for obvious reasons. But it's a nice, non-replicating lentivirus, and it's not going directly in the patient anyway.

I still laughed though. Biology pedant is pedantic...but I think many of us have imagined, if not actually had, conversations like the last panel about what we do.

This is a cool technique; unfortunately, there aren't a whole lot of currently-untreatable cancers where you can survive wiping out the entire cell type they came from. B cells you can live without - you're immunosuppressed but not dead. Maybe melanoma you could too - you'd be albino, and probably blind and deaf, but not dead. Brain cancer? No. Breast cancer? I doubt it. (Ductal epithelium is important; if you don't believe me, look up Sjogren's syndrome.)

And yeah, cancer *can* treat HIV - if they're giving you a bone marrow transplant anyway, they might take a second look to see if there's a matching donor with the HIV-resistant genotype. It's been done. But the transplant is likely to kill you before the HIV does, so if you don't have cancer, nobody's going to give you one.

And:
Alastriona wrote:This is really cool and all, but my biggest concern is if this pass all trials and in some years becomes available as a cure, will it be economically viable or will this treatment cost so much that it will be reserved only for the rich? I mean how hard is it to create these cancer killing cells?


The nice thing about this is it wouldn't be tailored therapy - the virus would be the same, you'd just have to get T cells from each person. In principle, it wouldn't be that different from culturing skin cells from a burn victim to make grafts, and I believe that's pretty routine now. So yeah, hope you're insured if you need something like this, but it wouldn't be off the scale.

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 10:19 am UTC
by Your Mom
Most of the research was originally based on mice, with Murine Lukemia virus or Lentivirus (can't remember which one) as a vector.

It would be more ironic however to use HTLV-1/HTLV-2 as a vector though.

We should be glad they are working on these kinds of novel therapies though, because many chronic diseases simply don't get anywhere near that level of research funding.

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 11:57 am UTC
by radtea
The thing I like about this comic is it emphasizes the anti-scientific nature of cosmic irony. The universe doesn't care what we expect, and anyone who wants to interfere with the world in a useful and productive way needs to ignore their expectations and feelings of what "just makes sense" and be guided by ideas that have survived the test of systematic observation and controlled experiment (science).

Associative "thinkers" get the feeling "HIV bad" and see something odd about using it to cure cancer. Scientific thinkers know this is a pretty standard technique, and transfecting T-cells using a modified virus known to target T-cells is pretty much a no-brainer. It only seems odd to people with a pre-scientific world-view.

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 12:08 pm UTC
by dotancohen
musashi1600 wrote:My first reaction when reading about this was, "Does this mean scientists might be able to use HIV to cure HIV?" Interestingly, there's someone in this Fark thread who replied "Yes" with an explanation.

There was a decent thread on slashdot about this:
http://science.slashdot.org/story/11/08 ... red-By-HIV

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 12:18 pm UTC
by Apeiron
If this research means we get a super-powered and mostly nekkid Milla Jovovich, i'm all for it.

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 12:24 pm UTC
by Istaro
radtea wrote:Scientific thinkers know this is a pretty standard technique


To nitpick, there are scientific thinkers in fields other than biology.

But more importantly, the second person in the second panel has had eir head replaced by a peach!

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 12:36 pm UTC
by project2051
Apeiron wrote:If this research means we get a super-powered and mostly nekkid Milla Jovovich, i'm all for it.


Today's comic has been brought to you by the Umbrella Corporation. We bring good things "back" to life.

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 12:59 pm UTC
by conorjh
Not a problem, but even if it was, here's a solution: scientists believe they may have found a broad spectrum anti-viral

http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/antiviral-0810.html

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 1:22 pm UTC
by dp2
dms33 wrote:
boothby171 wrote:Just wanted to be the first to say: CANE TOADS


Well played. That was my first thought as well. :-)

Except I suspect you're actually thinking of Bolivian tree lizards.

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 1:30 pm UTC
by HungryHobo
Yes it's a bit silly and I was hoping the alt text would say something to remind people that it's not actually HIV infection.

but I still liked the comic for the last line.

I didn't realise it wiped out all of the cells of the same type . I thought it targeted cancer antigens or at least could be engineered to target arbitrary antigens.

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 1:53 pm UTC
by billycthulhu
Sexually transmitted immunosuppression of cancer would be pretty badass.

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:10 pm UTC
by ladycygnus
HAH! That is exactly what I first thought when I read about this trial. "Use cancer infected with HIV to treat cancer...brilliant!"

I think those complaining about Randal not understanding are missing the point of the joke. Even though this may work, the description given to the "scientific laity" sounds absolutely insane.

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:27 pm UTC
by SpookyAction
I did get reminded of the "you can just buy lab coats" line. Perhaps it was the "almost" in the reply. I think I'm a doc? I kinda remember bits of medical school, like that chick in my bio class.... (10 pts to you if you got it)

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:45 pm UTC
by gavin
Hmm, we've been discussing this in the forums here already. viewtopic.php?f=9&t=73427
He actually made an interesting comment on it. The modified T-Cells do attack normal B-Cells too, so it's like an Aids strain that attacks B-Cells (or I guess, according to Randall it IS an AIDS strain that attacks B-Cells).

The solution is in eventually eliminating the modified T-Cells but something to counter just them (maybe they could engineer them with an unrelated weakness or an eventual inability to replicate further). Or, maybe they could likewise create slightly modified B-Cells and the human body would have two modified components of the immune system. Interesting.

EDIT: it appears that some patients begin to have normal B-cells again after discontinuing treatment but sometimes the t-cell persists. It also seems that the treatment is manageable though. Moreso than death from the leukemia.

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:49 pm UTC
by grainne15
asmodai wrote:Also: Somebody should probably email David L. Porter, M.D. to let him know he's being lampooned by stick figures.
I mean, I'd wanna know.


I work at the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn, and I know most of the researchers. I just about fell over laughing with delight when I saw this. Brilliant!

As a matter of fact, I did e-mail Carl June and Bruce Levine... because really, when you've been given the xkcd treatment, you've got some serious geek cred.

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:10 pm UTC
by jeff@orca.lu
It would have been so hilarious if the last panel said:

...
-Are you sure you're a doctor?
-I am wearing a lab coat...

http://xkcd.com/699/ :D

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:25 pm UTC
by A_of_s_t
Some how I knew the punchline was going to be HIV right from the start...

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:41 pm UTC
by Ifritho
Is this the way CAPCOM is rebooting the RE series? The T-Virus lives!

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:58 pm UTC
by Happler
ugmhemhe wrote:I am imagining the plot of "I am Legend" right now

EVERYONE! PREPARE FOR THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE!



The irony is that I, literally, just watched that movie for the first time last night. Afterwards I went to read XKCD and go to bed and....


:shock:

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 4:01 pm UTC
by DrVortex
I work on CLL, and dude the cells they used do not persist forever...

From TFA

"CART19 cells were identified in bone marrow specimens beginning 23 days after the first infusion (Figure 3B) and persisted for at least 6 months, with a decay half-life of 34 days. "

And its not HIV they used, just a lentivirus that is commonly used to transduce genes into cells. Sure, this shares the bits of the retroviral genome that allows genes to integrate without all the bits that cause pathology and it does NOT replicate.

Am I missing the point here? I always find XKCD more humorous when it deals with real information rather than fiction.

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 5:14 pm UTC
by Koppology
Yeah, +1 to all the people saying lentiviral vectors != HIV. I'm willing to forgive though; biology papers can be rather opaque, even to people within the discipline.

Randall, if you ever want to hang out with grad students at MIT studying cancer biology, give me a word. Best of luck with the treatment and recovery.

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 5:14 pm UTC
by highlyverbal
"Chimeral"?

"Chimerical" and "Chimeric" are both preferred usage over "Chimeral."

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 5:19 pm UTC
by CDRW
Just stepping in to say to the people who believe this comic spreads ignorance and fear about a legitimate medical technique; your attitude is incredibly insulting and egocentric. Us "mindless masses" who read xkcd for the funny jokes even though we don't fully get all of them aren't quite as dumb as you think.

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 5:25 pm UTC
by SpringLoaded12
starabo wrote:
nico wrote:They did not stop doing hearth transplants after the first ones that had complications, did they?


Thank god they didn't. My house has been much warmer ever since we switched to a woodburning stove.

You sir, are the king of this thread. Congratulations

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 5:36 pm UTC
by ViperFUD
ad169 wrote:Wow. Randall, implying that a lentiviral vector is equivalent to an HIV infection is ignorant and irresponsible. I can't help but feel that you know better.


Dude ... I'm pretty sure that NOWHERE in the comic does it imply that the person will become HIV+. You made that up in your head and then argued against it.

Strawman => -10/10.

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 5:55 pm UTC
by RogueCynic
Great comic. I have been saying lately that science is so quick to release a "cure" that they do not study the long term affects of the treatment. As to using Chimeral t-cells, maybe they need a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chimera_(mythology) Bellerophon-Pegasi to counteract the runaway reproduction.

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 5:58 pm UTC
by ThTa
As the brilliant Dr. Eye suggested.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SS4t3cB1kQk

highlyverbal wrote:"Chimeral"?

"Chimerical" and "Chimeric" are both preferred usage over "Chimeral."

"Chimeric" is indeed preferred, for as far as I know. But I've never seen "Chimerical" being used as anything other than a fancy synonym for "Imaginary"/"Unrealistic", the writer/speaker found in a thesaurus. (I may very well be wrong, though.)

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 6:30 pm UTC
by bytbox
highlyverbal wrote:"Chimeral"?

"Chimerical" and "Chimeric" are both preferred usage over "Chimeral."


Chimeral sounds way cooler, though.

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 6:47 pm UTC
by cream wobbly
RogueCynic wrote:I have been saying lately that science is so quick to release a "cure" that they do not study the long term affects of the treatment.

Effects, noun; affects verb. Effect, symptom: work ("feck") that comes out ("ex"). Affect, change: work ("feck") that goes in ("ad"). HTH.

Also, you seem to think this potential cure is released.

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 6:52 pm UTC
by TaylorP
cream wobbly wrote:
RogueCynic wrote:I have been saying lately that science is so quick to release a "cure" that they do not study the long term affects of the treatment.

Effects, noun; affects verb. Effect, symptom: work ("feck") that comes out ("ex"). Affect, change: work ("feck") that goes in ("ad"). HTH.


I remember with Affect is an Action (verb), therefore effect must be a noun. :wink:

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 7:09 pm UTC
by BlueLabel
ViperFUD wrote:
ad169 wrote:Wow. Randall, implying that a lentiviral vector is equivalent to an HIV infection is ignorant and irresponsible. I can't help but feel that you know better.


BlueLabel wrote:I'm sorry but I was pretty disappointed with this comic. I get that Mr. Munroe is probably not a specialist in genetics methodology but lentiviral transduction is a standby technique in biological/life science labs. A perfunctory review of modern gene therapy approaches couldn't possibly overlook this technique. It's a shame that it's been so grossly mischaracterized here. Usually the science jokes turn on the readers' understanding of the concept being discussed - here it's only funny if the reader is ignorant of the technique.

Just to clarify, there is nothing new or novel about using modified retrovirus to deliver genetic material to human cells. This is an incredibly common lab protocol. I was transducing glioma cell lines as an undergrad. That this is what's been highlighted as the innovative aspect of this research is rather shocking to me.



Dudes ... I'm pretty sure that NOWHERE in the comic does it imply that the person will become HIV+. You made that up in your head and then argued against it.

Strawman => -10/10.


Respectfully, if you reread my remarks I never even used the term HIV, nor did I imply that was Mr. Munroe's meaning. My issue is with how a very common lab technique is in this comic and thread being hailed as groundbreaking and novel, which definitely misses the point of the science.

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 7:47 pm UTC
by The_Barbarian
>My issue is with how a very common lab technique is in this comic and thread being hailed as groundbreaking and novel, which definitely misses the point of the science.

I think you're misreading the comic and the thread. I didn't see anyone hail the virus usage as groundbreaking.

Re: 0938: "T-Cells"

Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 7:53 pm UTC
by bmonk
conorjh wrote:Not a problem, but even if it was, here's a solution: scientists believe they may have found a broad spectrum anti-viral

http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/antiviral-0810.html


James Blish (Cities in Flight) postulated a (hyper-)broad-spectrum antibiotic (ascomycin, but not the one developed later in RL) and an anti-agathic drug that would prolong life indefinitely if taken regularly--IIRC, it would even stop cancers from killing a person--but he missed the anti-viral drugs.