Tuesday, April 14, 2009


A couple of weeks ago, Jack Bauer endured an exposure to a biowarfare agent… which somehow produces a prion agent… which unfortunately, causes mad cow disease.

Poor Jack, our hero. This is serious stuff.

Is the biowar agent scenerio in 24 believable? Could this be a genetically engineered virus carrying a prion?

Genetic sequences encoding prions, no doubt could be cloned into a virus particle...but will its expression produce a functional prion? If so, then the biowar scenerio in 24 may not be that too far-fetched.

Through genetic engineering we can now weaponize virus particles to our liking; we can insert new genes into them to produce toxins. We can also design viruses to infect where naturally they would not.

For example, in research laboratories we can and have genetically designed the HIV virus to extend its tropism. That is, where the HIV virus used to infect only via a needle stick, or blood to blood contact, scientists have now engineer it to infect through inhalation, ingestion or mucosal contact.

So in Jack’s case, here is how it might work. The virus, a non-replicating form which is not contagious but engineered to have broad tropism of infection, infects the lungs, mouth and eyes of our hero Jack Bauer through gaseous exposure. Subsequently, through this initial exposure the lungs, optic nerve and trigeminal nerve become infected. The virus continues to travel up his nerves and into his central nervous system. The virus then integrates into the DNA of the nervous system cells. It now is ready to rock and roll.

The virus, now hiding in the nervous system, starts it production machinery, expressing and pumping out loads of the prion protein. The prion protein then causes normal proteins to fold inappropriately, beginning a chain reacation of neurological insult and neuron death. And poor Jack Bauer our hero begins to shake and loose memory and becomes a MAD HATTER. ARRRRRRHHHHHHHHHHH....

Poor Jack. Someone save him. Will it be adult embryonic stem cells through his daughter's bone marrow? Dear me…More stem cell hype.

I can’t wait to find out how he gets out of this one.

1 comment:

  1. How about embryonic stem cells from his granddaughter's cord blood, because they saved it of course. Jack can be saved without any risk to Kim. But there is always a chance Jack could just torture the disease out of body!