A team of researchers from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute has conducted a project called VirScan and discovered how to access the DNA data about every disease which you have ever been faced with. This discovery could completely revolutionize medicine by enabling doctors to detect an illness long before it even starts to manifest by analyzing just a single drop of blood. In addition the test could also identify particular disease patterns in certain populations. The study was published in the journal Science.
Although the blood test is in the experiment phase, if it is successful researchers could use it to find out more details about the body’s immune system respond to particular virus patters and by doing this scientists could uncover cures for cancer and chronic diseases.
VirScan works by screening the blood for antibodies in comparison with 205 species of known viruses. The immune system stirs certain types of antibodies when it is faced with a virus. Although the infection is no longer present in the body the immune system can continue to produce those antibodies for decades. Those particular antibodies can be detected with VirScan and they can be used as a window in time. Thus for almost every virus an individual has ever encountered scientists could develop a blueprint. For the study the investigators used a library of peptides. They are short chains of amino acids which are derived from viruses.
The blood test can be performed for approximately $25. Compared to its price the implications are priceless. It is truly amazing how one drop of blood can be used to identify past exposure to over 1.000 strain viruses from 206 species; that is the entire human “virome”.
Stephen Elledge, the lead author of the study, explained that doctors usually use a trial-and-error system when they deal with viral infections. Unlike this traditional method VirScan can investigate everything your body has come in contact with and focus on what causes the problem. This method could be essential in curing conditions which involve a long incubation time such as hepatitis C and HIV. Moreover, the scientists also discovered that the majority of people react similarly when their body is infected and this could lead to the development of vaccines for conditions which were previously not treated.
Professor Ian Lipkin from Columbia University’s Center for Infection and Immunity was not involved in the study, but he remarked:
“The approach is clever and a technological tour de force. It has the potential to reveal viruses people have encountered recently or many years earlier … Thus, this is a powerful new research tool.”
Image Source: WCVH