In the current political climate it has become clear that science is a major target of Republican directed budget cuts. However, the soundbytes of politics do not represent the importance of science in our lives. Because of this, I think it's extremely important that we explain why some of our model systems are so important for understanding how viruses and ultimately human disease work.
In the lab that I run, we currently work on mutating two different herpesviruses. One of these is Kaposi's Sarcoma Herpesvirus (KSHV) and the other is Murid Herpesvirus 68 (MHV68). Both of these viruses are gammaherpesviruses
. In humans, KSHV only really ever becomes a problem in individuals who have a compromised immune system such as those infected with human immunodeficiency virus
(HIV). KSHV is an interesting virus because its default program is latency
, meaning that once it gets into your cells, it turns itself off and waits for conditions which allow it to grow and take over. This is akin to a bear hibernating in the winter. We do not understand how or w . . . More