There's quiet news quickly percolating through the medical world from MIT:
Note that this drug targets RNA of virally infected cells, theoretically of any virally infected cell. On the surface, this sounds wonderful: a one-time vaccination or therapy against all manner of colds, influenza, perhaps some kinds of cancers, for which there is a certain evidence of a viral cause, even perhaps to AIDS itself.
But note how the drug works: it kills the cells virally infected, preventing the spread of the virus. What if something went wrong with the recognition mechanism of such a drug? What if the drug "recognized" healthy cells as virally infected? The result would be obvious. Consider that one sentence toward the end of the article again:
"Each DRACO also includes a “delivery tag,” taken from naturally occurring proteins, that allows it to cross cell membranes and enter any human or animal cell. However, if no dsRNA is present, DRACO leaves the cell unharmed."
There, in one sentence, is the nightmare scenario in a nutshell. I have blogged previously about the consequences of genetic engineering, and the fact that our corporations and government agencies have, with respect to GMO crops and foods, fallen far short of exercising due caution to the wider human and environmental impacts of their engineered products. We can ill afford to ignore this development, and can ill afford to trust any pharmaceutical company or government agency to do adequate testing. This story is a development that we all need to watch very carefully. It affords, needless to say, great promise, and certainly I would be the last person to suggest that those suffering from deadly viruses should not have access to a wonderful technology. But by the same token, it contains the promise not only of a great boon, but a great peril as well.