Why Some People Are Immune to AIDS
Dr. Paul Bellman, a physician in private practice in Manhattan, has treated many HIV/AIDS patients over the past 25 years. As a medical student at NYU Medical School in 1980, he was involved in the care of the very first AIDS patients, then diagnosed with what was called GRID or Gay-Related Immune Deficiency. Bellman was formerly an attending physician at Saint Vincent's Hospital in New York, and is now affiliated with New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Question: What do you see as the most promising avenues of AIDS research?
Paul Bellman: One particularly promising avenue of research has come from the very careful study of a group of HIV-positive patients who have been positive for 20, 25 years and show little or no signs of immune compromise and have little or no detectable viral load. So, that suggests that there may be natural mechanisms that if we better understood could be harnessed as potential therapies. And here is where there has been some really interesting sort of cross-fertilization between basic science stuff that is happening in the sciences of immunology and what we’re observing in the clinic in patients and one particular scientist, Bruce Walker, has done some really good work sort of characterizing the molecular and cellular features of this group of patients who are long term non-progressors. And in fact, there are many research teams globally that are working on this problem and, just to be more specific, it appears that a certain kind of immune cell, which is a type of T-cell, not the T-cell that we conventionally think of as being infected by HIV, which is called the CD4 cell, but its complimentary or partner cell called the CD8 cell that there are certain... that those long-term non-progressor patients have very... you know their CD8 cells are great warriors and are able to kill viral, infected cells in the long term non-progressors. And so one can imagine that through further research we might be able to develop therapies that would further stimulate those cells to fight HIV and maybe even change patient status from people who would ordinarily progress to patients who could be treated with immune therapies and wouldn’t necessarily need to take toxic antiviral therapies indefinitely as the situation stands today.
So my vision actually in terms of at least from the point of view of a cure of HIV, from an immunologic point of view, is to treat patients with HAART, to treat them effectively, to get their viral loads to undetectable and then hopefully to develop cocktails of immune therapies that can mop up and take care of the rest of the virus—or prevent the virus from coming back. And that immune cocktail might be a combination of things that stimulate B-cells and certain T-cells and natural killer cells, similar to the antiviral drugs that work in some cases to interfere with a particular viral protein and then another viral protein and then the sum total of that allows there to be an effective therapy.
Recorded August 18, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller
Despite being infected with HIV, some people have genetic traits that prevent the virus from progressing to AIDS, even without treatment from antiretrovirals. Known as "elite controllers" and "long-term nonprogressors," these patients may provide the key to an effective vaccine.
The Spilhaus Projection may be more than 75 years old, but it has never been more relevant than today.
- Athelstan Spilhaus designed an oceanic thermometer to fight the Nazis, and the weather balloon that got mistaken for a UFO in Roswell.
- In 1942, he produced a world map with a unique perspective, presenting the world's oceans as one body of water.
- The Spilhaus Projection could be just what the oceans need to get the attention their problems deserve.
It's just the current cycle that involves opiates, but methamphetamine, cocaine, and others have caused the trajectory of overdoses to head the same direction
- It appears that overdoses are increasing exponentially, no matter the drug itself
- If the study bears out, it means that even reducing opiates will not slow the trajectory.
- The causes of these trends remain obscure, but near the end of the write-up about the study, a hint might be apparent
Through computationally intensive computer simulations, researchers have discovered that "nuclear pasta," found in the crusts of neutron stars, is the strongest material in the universe.
- The strongest material in the universe may be the whimsically named "nuclear pasta."
- You can find this substance in the crust of neutron stars.
- This amazing material is super-dense, and is 10 billion times harder to break than steel.
Superman is known as the "Man of Steel" for his strength and indestructibility. But the discovery of a new material that's 10 billion times harder to break than steel begs the question—is it time for a new superhero known as "Nuclear Pasta"? That's the name of the substance that a team of researchers thinks is the strongest known material in the universe.
Unlike humans, when stars reach a certain age, they do not just wither and die, but they explode, collapsing into a mass of neurons. The resulting space entity, known as a neutron star, is incredibly dense. So much so that previous research showed that the surface of a such a star would feature amazingly strong material. The new research, which involved the largest-ever computer simulations of a neutron star's crust, proposes that "nuclear pasta," the material just under the surface, is actually stronger.
The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.
Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv
Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.
The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.
While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.
One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.
"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"
Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.
The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.
Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.