• WABLOG: From the desk of Matthias Wabl

Ecotropic virus in mice that are modifiers of autoimmunity

The fairly recent realization that endogenous elements play an important role in the immune system has revived a great interest in them. We now know that endogenous retroelements are adjuvants in the immune response to T cell-independent type 2 antigens; and retroelements are implicated in monogenic and polygenic (“spontaneous”) autoimmune disease. Read More »

Proof, Facts, and Alternative Medicine

Philosophers of science are a bit like Catholic priests as marriage counselors: They entertain ideas that are different from those of the practitioners. The foolhardy assumption that a hypothesis cannot be proved, but only disproved, is irrelevant to the workings of modern science, which is based on experiments. (In fact, strictly speaking, a hypothesis can neither be proven nor disproved). Experiments restrict the range of discussion on a subject. While it is axiomatic that, for a limited number of experiments there is an unlimited number of explanations, or hypotheses, the hypotheses have to be reasonable. When reasonable explanations are tested and excluded, the remaining explanation becomes the basis of the next experiment. It is this next experiment that theoreticians forget about: It is the accumulation of positive outcomes from successive experiments that establishes a fact, such as that DNA is the hereditary material. “Alternative” medicine is, at best, based on “experience,” not on experiments. While experiences no doubt constitute facts as well and, indeed, greatly outnumber facts established by experiments, experiences tend to be tied to various ad hoc explanations that fit the day. The therapy prescription to “throw enough cards (or remedies), and eventually some odds will go your way,” is questionable, as there are too many possibilities.

How inflammation leads to multiple myeloma

In mice, mineral oil causes inflammation, which leads to a lupus-like condition and to the formation of plasma cell tumors. It has long been known that chromosomal translocations (breakage of two chromosomes and rejoining the wrong ends between them) drive tumor formation and progression. But clearly, this is not enough for full-blown tumors, and it raises the question: What do inflammatory tissues provide to promote further mutagenesis? We have shown that endogenous retroviruses and retrovirus-like particles mutate DNA in such a way as to activate cancer genes.

From the peer review of the paper:

“This is a well written paper that progresses our understanding of the transforming events that may be associated with inflammation-induced cancer. Experiments described in this manuscript will fuel further investigations to determine whether human cancers associated with chronic inflammation can be associated with reactivation, replication and mobilization of endogenous retroelements, thereby possibly contributing to tumor initiation maintenance and/or progression.”

Read the paper: