Can an immune person be the key to finding the cure to a disease?

In summary: A blood sample isn't enough - they would have to check her brain for traces of the fungus. In summary, a character has been successfully cured of a deadly disease using advanced technology, but all records of the cure have been destroyed. The character faces the decision of sharing the cure with others or staying in a safe place. The question is whether a living subject is necessary for reverse engineering a vaccine or treatment, or if a blood or tissue sample would suffice. It is possible to reverse engineer a cure, but the specific method would depend on the cause of the disease. In some cases, a brain examination may be necessary to fully understand the cure.
  • #1
callie123
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Hey, I'm writing a science-fiction novel, and trying to keep as much "sci" in there as I can!

Scenario: A character has been successfully cured of a deadly disease, using cool (insert hand wave) stuff. But all records of the cure have been destroyed (files of info, samples, etc). Now the character is facing the decision of staying in a place of safety, or leaving this place in order to share information of the cure with others.

My question is: Is this a false dilemma? Is there a situation in which the person would be needed in order to "reverse engineer" a vaccine or treatment (or both, as in the case of preposed therapeutic vaccines) or would a simple blood sample be sufficient? I'm trying to work up a dramatic plot moment, but I don't have the medical knowledge to know if this is realistic.

So, I guess this is a double question. 1. Is reverse-engineering a vaccine or treatment plausible, and 2. Is a living subject necessary or at least more beneficial than a blood or tissue sample? Thanks, guys!
 
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  • #2
Generally, vaccinations work by fooling your immune system into attacking something that resembles a real virus (such as the proteins that make up the outer shell of the virus, or the actual virus that's been killed), so that when you are infected by the real virus, the immune system will be prepared. If the disease is caused by a virus, I would guess that reverse-engineering the vaccine would involve identifying the virus and the sites that human antibodies would bond on.

Non-vaccine treatments may involve drugs that enhance beneficial biological functions or suppress harmful ones. These exist today; at the simplest level, an allergy medication suppresses an histamine response, or a pain medication suppresses the brain's receptivity to pain, or an antibiotic kills harmful bacteria or parasites, or steroid injections enhance muscular growth -- all of these may have undesirable side effects. I remember reading a humorous SF short story in which the military had contracted with a drug manufacturer to produce a drug that would make soldiers better fighters, but it had the side effect of (quoting the general's complaint) "promoting faggotry in the ranks", upon which the company sold the government another drug to counteract that side effect, but that one had another side effect, and so on.

A science-fiction medical treatment might involve, say, nanotechnology (robots at a molecular scale) to modify human DNA in a specific way to resist a particular disease. A cure that requires DNA modification may require a human subject with and without the disease to examine the DNA to reverse-engineer the cure.

Ask yourself, what is the cause of your fictional disease? Is it infectious, and if so, is it caused by a virus, prions, bacteria, fungi, or parasites? Is there immunodeficiency involved? Genetic disorder? Nutritional deficiency? Poison? Have a look at https://www.britannica.com/science/human-disease/The-causes-of-disease and other search results for the causes of disease. Once you figure out your fictional disease, and the cure, then you can figure out how the cure would be reverse-engineered.

I am no medical expert, but those are my thoughts. If you don't personally know anyone with medical expertise, hopefully someone here who has some can give a better answer than me.
 
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  • #3
callie123 said:
Hey, I'm writing a science-fiction novel, and trying to keep as much "sci" in there as I can!

Scenario: A character has been successfully cured of a deadly disease, using cool (insert hand wave) stuff. But all records of the cure have been destroyed (files of info, samples, etc). Now the character is facing the decision of staying in a place of safety, or leaving this place in order to share information of the cure with others.

My question is: Is this a false dilemma? Is there a situation in which the person would be needed in order to "reverse engineer" a vaccine or treatment (or both, as in the case of preposed therapeutic vaccines) or would a simple blood sample be sufficient? I'm trying to work up a dramatic plot moment, but I don't have the medical knowledge to know if this is realistic.

So, I guess this is a double question. 1. Is reverse-engineering a vaccine or treatment plausible, and 2. Is a living subject necessary or at least more beneficial than a blood or tissue sample? Thanks, guys!
Hmm, where have I seen this plot before?
The Omega Man
 
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  • #4
Another take is the adventure game The Last of US, where Ellie, a girl about 12 is infected but not showing terminal symptoms - she is a possible cure for the fungus disease that turns people into psychos.
A blood sample isn't enough - they would have to check her brain.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_of_Us
 
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  • #5
256bits said:
Another take is the adventure game The Last of US, where Ellie, a girl about 12 is infected but not showing terminal symptoms - she is a possible cure for the fungus disease that turns people into psychos.
A blood sample isn't enough - they would have to check her brain.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_of_Us
Yes! I actually read about that game while doing research for my own plot. Interesting, thank you.
 
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  • #6
Borg said:
Hmm, where have I seen this plot before?
The Omega Man
Ha! How have I not heard of this movie?! thanks :cool:
 
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Related to Can an immune person be the key to finding the cure to a disease?

1. Can a person's immune system be used to develop a cure for a disease?

Yes, a person's immune system can play a crucial role in finding a cure for a disease. The immune system is responsible for fighting off infections and diseases, and understanding how it responds to a particular disease can provide valuable insights for developing a cure.

2. How can an immune person's antibodies be used to find a cure?

Antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system to fight off specific pathogens. By studying the antibodies produced by an immune person, scientists can identify the specific antigens that trigger an immune response and use that information to develop targeted treatments or vaccines.

3. Are there any examples of immune people being the key to finding a cure?

Yes, there have been several cases where immune people have played a crucial role in finding a cure for a disease. For example, the discovery of the hepatitis B vaccine was made possible by studying the antibodies of a person who had recovered from the disease.

4. Can an immune person's genetic makeup affect their ability to find a cure?

Yes, a person's genetic makeup can influence their immune response and their susceptibility to certain diseases. By studying the genetic factors that contribute to a person's immunity, scientists can gain a better understanding of how diseases develop and how to develop effective treatments.

5. How can the immune system be manipulated to find a cure for a disease?

There are several ways in which the immune system can be manipulated to find a cure for a disease. These include using immunotherapy, which involves using the body's immune system to target and destroy cancer cells, and developing vaccines that stimulate the immune system to prevent or treat a disease.

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