Monday, April 2, 2007

God loves Lesbians -- HIV and Evolution

I'm going to try to write this up right after acupuncture, but I'm feeling pretty loopy so we'll just see. Never know what's going to happen after acupuncture -- ravenously hungry? bone-crushingly tired? hornier than a 3-balled tomcat? You just never know. Good thing it works, I effing hate needles.

So, the biological tidbit. In Evolution class today, we talked about HIV. It's a devastatingly great example of evolution, because it's one of the most mutagenic [appears that might not be the right use of the word, but I mean it mutates like crazy] organisms on the planet. In a single day 10 - 100 million mutated HIV virions can appear inside a single human being. Our cells have enzymes that destroy mutated DNA and RNA to keep them out of circulation -- but HIV doesn't, it wants to mutate. It wants to mutate because it wants to adapt very fast to changes in its environment. If you want to learn more about how HIV works, click this,then go down to "activity" on the left bar, and after that click the tutorial. But be warned, it's not really in layman's terms. Might be a fun cartoon to watch for a few minutes at work tho.

The virus "wants" [that's anthropomorphic shorthand for "it's evolutionarily beneficial"] to adapt around anything that stands in its way, any changes that hinder its progress. Changes like the original anti-AIDS drug AZT. HIV, it turns out, can adapt around the problem that AZT provides it in approximately 6 months. It just needs a mutation to appear with a minute shape change on one of its enzymes and it's good to go. With millions and millions of mutations happening every day, this exact mutation is bound to pop up soon enough. If this extra-special virus is then spread to other humans, well it doesn't bode well for the new medicine. Due to this AZT isn't even marketed anymore. It's incredible, actually, that Medicine has found anything to target this vicious, shape-shifting little bugger.

An organism adapting to survive despite the presence of elements designed to kill it is an evolutionary process. It's simple, if normally time consuming. There is a pressure on a population of organisms (ATZ for instance), all the organisms die that don't have what it takes to live in this circumstance -- the ones that survive have a specific genetic trait (mutation) that allows them to survive. This mutated, successful trait will then spread because its both helpful to the organism, and able to be inherited by the next generation. Wallah, textbook case of evolution of a population. [there's one tie-in to the title] It's of course much more complicated than this, as behaviors pass on as well, but we'll leave this discussion there.

Another interesting tidbit is that there are humans who are genetically resistant to HIV. They carry a mutated element in their cell walls -- if you are dying to know more, then google delta 32 allele and you will find many papers like this that will explain it to the minutest detail. These people are densest in population around northern Europe. One theory for this is that same genetic mutation they have was something that protected people from Bubonic Plague. This would leave happy mutants behind when the Black Plague hit Europe, and keep that trait centered there in the world stage.

How does this relate to lesbians? Well -- the idea was posited to us in class today that, for those who believe HIV is a punishment sent down from God, God must love lesbians. They are, after all, the least affected of all human communities on the planet by this virus. And, by extension, northern European lesbians must be God's extra-special chosen people [so hot].


Tate said...

i like this post, i think it is interesting ending to it, because yes many people think it is a punishment .... which to be blunt is fucked up.
I get tired of people trying to find a bad reason someone has something like this, does that mean that cancer is a punishment? does "god" hate women so they are given breast cancer??? I could rant on and on, but i would soon sound crazy and get all worked up. I am not as good as brandon is with putting sords down

Bpaul said...

Agreed -- fucked up.

Doesn't need to be more eloquent than that IMHO.