Friday, June 10

Wormsign: viruses hack your perceptions

This Scientific American article talks about parasitism,and the various evolutionary tricks that parasites get up to to cause their hosts to do things more imicable to their own reproduction.

Including messing with their brains, to exaggerate or reduce their instinctive responses to pheromones (like making rats avoid cats less).

I can't help but think two things: (1) how long is it going to take to weaponize something like this? and (2) how long is it going to take before I can take a pill that makes me concentrate better?


JeremyHussell said...

You can already do that. See 11 steps to a better brain.

JeremyHussell said...

I think I read this article in Scientific American when it was published a couple of years ago.

There are plenty of other neat things happening out there. I'm sure that you've heard by now that some wasps lay their eggs in living caterpillars, and the wasp larvae proceed to devour the caterpillar from the inside out. At least one wasp also injects a virus along with its eggs. If the eggs are injected without the virus, the caterpillar's immune system destroys them. The virus, however, temporarily wrecks the caterpillar's immune system, allowing the eggs to hatch, at which point the larvae can take care of themselves.

That isn't the coolest part though. When scientists examined the wasp's ovipositor they discovered, to their surprise, that the virus isn't a symbiote, exactly; it's being manufactured by the wasp. That's right, some of the wasp's DNA, when expressed, actually builds a virus, not a wasp cell. Nobody knows whether the wasp evolved this ability on its own, or if an independant virus somehow merged with the wasp's genome.