A Conversation for Genetic Weapons

Targeted genetic weapons

Post 1

Researcher 141264

The inherent problem of biological weapons has been the lack of control of the spread of the organism. With advances in cell biology, this is proving to be a problem which can be solved.

The utility of biological weapons can readily be developed into highly targeted weapons. In fact potential for use as agents of targeted assassination is very real.

Every human (excepting identical twins) has a unique set of genes. The key to targetting a bioweapon is to take advantage of those genes which are highly variable. The immune system readily provides such a target.

We are familiar with the Major Histocompatibility Complexes (MHC's) as the gene products which are matched in organ donation. MHC's are proteins which are displayed on the surface of cells. Technology for typing MHC's is highly evolved. Use of this information for targeting a weapon is a logical approach.

To make the targeting mechanism, exploit the MHC variabliity and manufacture antibodies to the typed MHC proteins. The most difficult step is to incorporate the antibodies as a part of an immunoconjugate with a viral capsid. From there, it is reasonable simple to package genes into different viral capsids, each with a different MHC antibody.

You manufacture six different viral shells, with six different targets. Take the genes from your favorite nasty organism (pick a very lethal, but hard to spread virus) and divide the genes between the six viral shells. Then you deliver the viral shells to your target.

If the mixture finds all six targets in its host, the viral genes can recombine, and become pathogenic. But if the mixture does not find all six targets, recombination does not take place, and no disease process begins.

As this approach directly infects the target's immune system, lethal results are possible quickly. Some of the nastier viruses are lethal within hours.

Targeted genetic weapons

Post 2


The released engineered virus' genes would eventually mutate in their targetted hosts. One of these mutations would have to affect the engineered viral specificity with respect to the ethnicity (bad word, sorry) of the host, as the number of genes in viruses (or virii?, discuss) is very low, increasing the chance of a mutation in the engineered gene(s) greatly.

Genetic weapons of this type would surely not be used by a government, as eventually non-targetted (i.e. their own) populations would become affected. Mutations are the raw material upon which natural selection works, and the virus wouldn't really give a poo which human would become infected. These mutated viruses would have a greater host range and therefore become naturally selected, increasing rapidly in numbers.

Genetic (or ethnic) weapons will be no more useful than dumping anthrax on a bunch of poor unsuspecting sods.

'If the mixture finds all six targets in its host, the viral genes can recombine' um, how would these genes recombine? i can't see it myself. if you split the genes up from the virus, surely each individual viral particle would not be able to function, as they wouldn't have a full complement of genes.

I might have missed something though smiley - winkeye

Targeted genetic weapons

Post 3

Researcher 217256

Oddly enough I remember seeing an advertisement from DERA for microbiologists and genetics tehcnicians to work in this area about three years ago. Nice to know the UK taxpayer is keeping up with the neighbours.

Targeted genetic weapons

Post 4


If you haven't already, read the Rama series for a great example of genetic warfare, although on a small scale.

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