Livin' on the MDedge

Meet our newest genetically engineered frenemy, herpes


Herpes to the rescue

Let’s face it: When people hear the word “herpes,” their first thoughts are not positive. But what if herpes could be a hero?

Scientists have found a way to make a strain of herpes that kills cancer because, hey, it’s 2022, and anything is possible. Trials have been going well and this seems like a safe and effective way to fight cancer.

Herpes virus Aunt_Spray/Thinkstock

Viruses may be one of our oldest enemies, but it’s also been said that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. So why not make herpes the enemy of cancer, thereby turning it into our friend? The genetically modified herpes virus is injected directly into tumors, where it destroys cancer cells from within. But wait, there’s more! The patient’s immune system also senses the virus and springs into action against it and the cancer in which it is residing.

During the phase 1 trial, three of the nine patients saw tumor reduction and the therapy proved safe as well. Future trials will be able to more specifically target various cancer types and make the treatment better. For once, we are rooting for you, herpes.

A breath of not-so-fresh air

There’s nothing quite like that first real warm day of spring. You can finally open the windows and clear out the old stuffy air that’s been hanging around all winter long. It’s a ritual that’s now backed up with some science in the form of a new study. Turns out that there’s actually a fair amount of smog in the average home. That’s right, smog’s not just for the big city anymore.


As part of the HOMEChem project, a whole host of scientists gathered together under one roof in a typical suburban house and immediately started doing chores. Cooking, cleaning, the works. No, it wasn’t because they had trashed the place the night before. They had set up instrumentation all around the house to measure the chemical makeup of the air inside. A scientist’s idea of a wild party.

The results are perhaps not all that surprising, but interesting nonetheless. Your homemade smog certainly won’t kill you, but there’s both an increased amount and higher concentration of airborne toxins in indoor air, compared with outdoors. Benzene and formaldehyde were common, as were acrolein (a pulmonary toxicant emitted by lumber and burning fats) and isocyanic acid (which can react with proteins in the human body). The researchers noted that most of these chemicals can be removed with proper ventilation.

Although cleaning is certainly responsible for a fair share of the chemicals, cooking generally produced more toxic compounds, similar to what’s found in wildfire smoke. One of the researchers said this makes sense, since a wildfire can be considered an “extreme form of cooking.” Scientists may not know how to party, but their idea of a barbecue sounds … interesting. We’re looking forward to an upcoming study out of California: Can a 1-million acre wildfire adequately cook a ribeye steak?


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