Putting An End To It

Grind for April 10th, 2019
“There was never yet fair woman but she made mouths in a glass.”

– William Shakespeare.

Good News

The Headline

New immunotherapy identifies and kills HIV-infected cells

The Grind

A team of researchers at the University of Pittsburg has designed a groundbreaking immunotherapy that draws the HIV virus out of hiding and kills it.

The therapy is possible thanks to the existence of cytomegalovirus (CMV), a ubiquitous herpes virus that – like HIV – goes latent inside the human body. In the United States, more than 30% of children younger than age 5 and more than 50% of adults over age 40 are infected with CMV.

An estimated 95% of individuals with HIV also have CMV.

“The immune system spends a lot of time keeping CMV in check; in some people, 1 out of every 5 T-cells are specific to that one virus,” explains study author Charles Rinaldo, Ph.D. “That got us thinking – maybe those cells that are specific to fighting CMV also make up a large part of the latent HIV reservoir. So we engineered our immunotherapy to not only target HIV, but to also activate CMV-specific T helper cells.”

The Details

Using blood from more than 20 participants infected with HIV, the team was able to isolate T helper cells and dendritic cells (the cells that tell your immune system where to go and what to fight).

Next, they engineered specific dendritic cells in the lab – called “MDC1” – to find and activate CMV-specific cells. The theory was that the CMV-specific cells would also contain latent HIV.

The experiment worked. Not only were the MDC1 cells able to locate latent HIV, but they were able to direct the T helper cells to kill it.

The Implication

Rinaldo’s team hopes to use the MDC1 cells to design a vaccine that will replace antiretroviral therapy (ART), a daily regimen of medications taken to slow the progression of HIV.

ART is effective, but causes unpleasant side effects like nausea, diarrhea, headache, vomiting, difficulty sleeping, pain, dizziness, and fatigue.

The team is currently looking for funding so it can run full clinical trials.

Peer Pressure

The Headline

Facebook to implement ban on white extremism

The Grind

Starting this week, Facebook will enforce a ban on “praise, support, and representation of white nationalism and white separatism

As stated in a press release, “White nationalism and white separatism cannot be meaningfully separated from white supremacy and organized hate groups.”

Ideally, the ban will prevent white supremacists from using Facebook to spread their message, recruit members, and organize attacks.

Facebook users caught searching for terms associated with white supremacy will be directed to “Life After Hate” – an organization designed to help people leave hate groups.

The Details

Facebook’s decision is likely a response to international pressure as well as the Christchurch shooting in New Zealand last month – when a gunman used Facebook Live to broadcast the attack.

“White supremacists are as much a global movement and interconnected – in other words sharing ideas, sharing money, sharing tactics, sharing propaganda, visiting each other…just like you see with Islamic extremists,” says Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project.

Critics say the ban represents a violation of the 1st Amendment.

The ban is “ridiculous,” says John Spier, a Facebook user who argues that everyone deserves freedom of expression “even if they are an idiot.”

“There’s a lot of idiots in the world who say a lot of stupid things. We don’t need to protect people from that,” says Spier.

The ban is also related to the growing debate about who can and who can’t be racist. Under the new rules, Facebook users can write “I’m a black nationalist” but not “I’m a white nationalist.”

“I know that the current popular mode of thought is that only white people can be racist,” says Spier. “But I don’t agree with that. I grew up as a minority white person in a largely Latino community and – believe me – I know what racism feels like.”

Did you know… In 2013, a homeless man from Oregon robbed a bank for $1, then casually sat down and waited for police to arrest him so he could receive healthcare in prison.