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The Swine Flu (N1H1) and Molecular Replication

04/30/2009 2:49 PM

It seems that the recent N1H1 flu virus is spreading world wide very quickly. Doesn't that mean there exists a chemical mechanism for a complex molecule to demand it be replicated and then exhaled from its host? Many other diseases seem to have the same capability. Is the chemical mechanism for replication essentially the same? Could that mechanism be used to replicate all manner of complex compounds? Is anyone looking for this feature in viruses?

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#1

Re: The recent flu problem

04/30/2009 3:00 PM

No.

Wash your hands often and cover your mouth if you sneeze!

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#2

Re: The Swine Flu (N1H1) and Molecular Replication

04/30/2009 5:38 PM

Is the chemical mechanism for replication essentially the same? Viral replication is pretty straightforward and it's the same for all those pesky pathogens. They cannot do anything until they get inside a living cell. Once they are in the cell, they are able to take over the cellular machinery we use to make our own necessaries, and make copies of themselves instead. When the cell is chock full of little virions, it breaks open, dies, and out they spill to infect other cells. If this is in your lungs, then the inflammatory reaction from these cell deaths and infections will make you cough and choke and, of course, spew out some virus that can infect another host.

Could that mechanism be used to replicate all manner of complex compounds? Yeast and bacterial cells are used in industry to produce all manner of complex compounds. This is generally done by inserting a gene that will cause the hosts to use their cellular machinery to produce the desired substance. While viruses may be used in the gene insertion process, they have no machinery of their own. All the replication is done courtesy of the host.

Doesn't that mean there exists a chemical mechanism for a complex molecule to demand it be replicated and then exhaled from its host? A respiratory virus like influenza will end up in your lungs even if you got it by touching a doorknob and then rubbing your eye. With bacteria, it's obvious that aerobic (oxygen requiring) types are going to thrive in the lungs. With respiratory viruses, it may be that the gas exchange function in the lungs requires a fair bit of "low-security" traffic in and out of the cell, so it's easy for the virus to get into cells there and replicate like mad. Or there may be specific receptors on lung cells that influenza and other respiratory viruses are keyed to exploit.

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#3
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Re: The Swine Flu (N1H1) and Molecular Replication

04/30/2009 11:18 PM

When the virus or disease takes over the cellular machinery, could it theoretically cause the cell to easily make super complex molecules that are hard to produce in the laboratory? Perhaps the mutations that occur in viruses are caused by the coping mechanism being so powerful that anything close to the original virus is also copied.

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#8
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Re: The Swine Flu (N1H1) and Molecular Replication

05/01/2009 5:30 PM

..could it theoretically cause the cell to easily make super complex molecules that are hard to produce in the laboratory?

What is unique about cellular machinery is that it is produces molecules that have the right chirality. A laboratory process produces what is called a 'racemic' mixture of molecules which are 50-50 left and right handed. Chiral structure is often referred to as 'handedness' - you know what happens if you put your left hand in the right glove - it's a mirror image but it doesn't fit. The same is true of bioactive molecules. The 3D configuration of the molecule should fit like a hand in a glove. Or it doesn't work.

The most famous example of problems with chirality in the lab is thalidomide. The intended molecule was really an innocuous anti-nausea medication. But its mirror image molecule turned out to be a deadly mutagen. This is exactly why the use of cellular machinery for production is a useful alternative to purely chemical processes, for anything intended for human consumption.

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#9
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Re: The Swine Flu (N1H1) and Molecular Replication

05/01/2009 5:46 PM

So what about cellulose, isn't that produuced by cells and a left chiral version of starch. Right is more common, but left is not particularly rare. It is however true that engineered chemicals tend to be less selective with regards to chirality. However as the ability to engineer base RNA for producing specific protien sequences, rapidly, improves we can then produce enzymes that are the compounds necessary to control chirality in production

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#11
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Re: The Swine Flu (N1H1) and Molecular Replication

05/01/2009 7:37 PM

I'm not sure what you're getting at.. RNA, enzymes: these are biological products not products of any chemistry lab. Are you saying that they are now used in a chem lab context for production ? (with no microorganisms or cells involved)

as for "engineered chemicals tend to be less selective" what is this? My chemistry professors told me that chemical ex-vivo processes in a lab invariably produce a 50-50 mixture of chiralities R-L. If this is not the case please enlighten with some references.

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#12
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Re: The Swine Flu (N1H1) and Molecular Replication

05/01/2009 7:52 PM

RNA and proteins can be synthsize ex vivo, these are just chemicals like anything else. They just happen to be chemicals utilized in biological organisms. You cna inscribe RNA or proteins and sythesize them without the need for a micro-organism. The problem is the very long chanin protein sequences are very complicated, and it is easier currently to produce these in biological processes. They have been synthesizing proteins for decades now in chemical laboratories, without using a living organism as a host for production (just initially these processes are experimental and not nearly as efficient as organisms can do). Organisms, however, mutate and escape and grow. Chemical processes do not usually pose as high a risk and a release and run away growth process.

Typically, engineered chemical processes are not as selective and the enzymes in many organisms can be. (However, some biochemical processes are meant to be extremely fast and and catch all, and thus are not very selective peroxidase would be an example.)

It was my understanding that chirality is not always a 50/50 ratio in engineered chemicals, some polymerizing processes have a preference and the ratio will vary substantially. However, I did not have the educational experience you may have had in chemistry, as I only have a Bachelor of Science in biological and environmental chemistry, and would defer to you understanding as a simpler way to explain the likely ratio of the occurrence in most cases (a easy rule of thumb as it were).

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#13
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Re: The Swine Flu (N1H1) and Molecular Replication

05/01/2009 9:43 PM

Our backgrounds are somewhat similar, but it sounds like you learned more about the compensations in the chem lab for the dissimilarity to biological synthesis, so I stand to be corrected. I have a better grounding in microbiology and biochem, not the chem lab.

Just did a quick search and got the chirality wiki: it's pretty clear there are methods of separating chiral mixtures in the lab. Apparently for some things it doesn't matter, though: thalidomide interconverts in vivo so it wouldn't matter which enantiomer you had in the first place.

If I get some time off later this weekend, I'll see what else I can turn up.

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#15
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Re: The Swine Flu (N1H1) and Molecular Replication

05/02/2009 12:20 PM

Since N1H1 jumped from pigs to humans, doesn't this imply that the 'copy me' part of the virus works on both human and pig cells? If so, and one isolates the 'copy me' part of the virus, then pig cells could be used to produce complex molecules like interferon. It seems that cells some how copy the molecule and the 'copy me' command attached too it, which sounds like perpetual motion.

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#16
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Re: The Swine Flu (N1H1) and Molecular Replication

05/02/2009 8:44 PM

It seems like you are interested enough to benefit from a course in virology. Enjoy.

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#6
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Re: The Swine Flu (N1H1) and Molecular Replication

05/01/2009 3:44 AM

Hi Artsmith

I think the world need you in Mexico.

Isn't it time to use the old fashioned way of using something like DDT? (kill the virus and worry about the other consequences afterwards)

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#10
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Re: The Swine Flu (N1H1) and Molecular Replication

05/01/2009 7:14 PM

..using something like DDT?

I think it's pretty well impossible, there's nothing like a DDT for viruses. From a public health perspective, sterilizing surfaces is worthwhile, though. What are the engineering perspectives on self-sterilizing surfaces? Could you design a door that sterilizes itself after each time it is opened?

The thing about viruses is that a small exposure can produce an effective immune response: a large first exposure is the thing to avoid at all costs. So the first principle is minimize your exposure. Keep that viral titre down.

Transmission by air is relatively inefficient: unless you are in an ideal environment: enclosed, right temperature, lots of people: you will probably get minimal to low exposures by breathing. Transmission by hand is worse in most situations. Someone coughs on their hand, then opens a door. Viral particles on these surfaces can be quite concentrated.

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#4

Re: The Swine Flu (N1H1) and Molecular Replication

05/01/2009 12:50 AM

It means that in Mexico, since the inhabitants can buy the same anti-biotics that are used so heavily on swine (to kill the inner infections that give the pork the super salty taste..aka pus)... well, because the Mexicans use these for anything and everything including a simple cold or flu... We now have even more super diseases coming from Mexico!

I have seen people in the desert with half their faces and the rest of their skin falling off from sicknesses we haven't seen for 200 years. Lepers! Not just regular lepers, but full fledged un-controllable leprocy.

The border need to be closed and the entire Mexican landscape cleansed of disease.

I am saying this because I care, not as if I were some anti-Mexican.

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#5
In reply to #4

Re: The Swine Flu (N1H1) and Molecular Replication

05/01/2009 2:45 AM

Napalm is a good disinfectant and kills most know Viruses.

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#17
In reply to #5

Re: The Swine Flu (N1H1) and Molecular Replication

05/04/2009 3:20 AM

You two guests (post 4 and 5) - really, apart from the obvious racial innuendos, at least make the starting point for you arguments based on some sort of fact.

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#7
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Re: The Swine Flu (N1H1) and Molecular Replication

05/01/2009 11:48 AM

Antibiotics do not have an effect on viruses! some conspiracy theorist should go back to college and retake their molecular biology and virology courses. The reason the impact of the virus is worse in mexico than the united States is because we have a better living environment and health care in which infected people can recuperate. We also have abntivirals in severe cases to help inhibit the virus' ability to penetrate cells.

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#14
In reply to #7

Re: The Swine Flu (N1H1) and Molecular Replication

05/02/2009 12:43 AM

Q

Do phytochemicals/antioxidants kill viruses?

If our immune system cannot, can these substances do the dirty work, and prevent the cellular invasions?

Chinese Proverb:
'When someone shares something of value with you, and you benefit from it, you have a moral obligation to share it with others.'

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#19
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Re: The Swine Flu (N1H1) and Molecular Replication

05/04/2009 11:25 AM

Antioxidants are not antiviral agents. Antioxidants are compounds that may help your body scavenge and neutralize oxidizing compounds like peroxides. There may be some antiviral agents in some plant species, since most pharmaceuticals are derived from extraction of plant chemicals. However, these antivirals just help bolster resistance. If you immune system is comprimised you are in serious trouble no matter what. On the plus side one of the hardest things for a virus is to penetrate your cells. They have to be specially encoded just to allow the possibility that they might penetrate some peoples cells. In the millions of replications that occur during the duration of one persons flu the encoding can change. It is a moving target. BTW viruses, much like prions, are actually living.

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#18

Re: The Swine Flu (N1H1) and Molecular Replication

05/04/2009 6:33 AM

Just think how this virus is going to enjoy itself in South Africa with the Soccer Confederation Cup. People from all over the world are going to fly in. Sit in packed stadiums and then fly back to where they all came from. Spreading this decease is going to happen even quicker than what a lot of people think. But again, money overrules all. And you don't want to end up in a hospital in SA, believe me. And what about the soccer world cup 2010?? Hope they are sorted by then. Our airports don't even have heat (temperature) scanners yet.

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