October 9, 2013
A Cure For The Common Cold
I am one of those lucky few that does not get sick very often. By very often, I mean that I can count three times in the last decade that I can remember being sick enough to call off work or change my plans in any significant way. However, I am something of a rarity. Most people I know get sick often, distressingly often in some cases. Despite how far we have come in the field of medicine, and how many break throughs we have had, it is surprising to think of just how far we have yet to go. Despite all of our modern medical treatments, all of the work going into curing various diseases, we have still not found a cure for the common cold.
But, we are getting closer.
Using the 2009 pandemic as an experiment to test why some people, like me, are able to resist illnesses more easily than others, researchers at the Imperial College of London asked volunteers to donate blood samples, just as the swine flu was going into full swing. From that, they realized that many of those who were able to avoid illness had substantially more CD8 T cells in their blood. CD8 T cells are a type of virus-killing cell produced by the immune system. Unlike antibodies, which identify the structure of a virus, the CD8 T cells target the core of a virus and eliminate it. Because the core of a virus does not change, these cells are better able to fend off varying strains of the same virus, making them much more efficient in keeping people healthy and happy.
The reason we do not yet have a cure for the common cold, and other, similar illnesses, is that these diseases are constantly changing. There are so many varieties of them that it is impossible to create a single antibody that can identify and repel all of them. This is what makes the identification of what these useful CD8 T cells can do so promising. With these recent findings, researchers are now working to find a way of stimulating production of CD8 T cells within the body. There is hope that with further study, this may lead us to a time when we do manage to create a cure for even the so-called “common” cold.
Sickness has long since been one of mankind’s greatest threats. It has plagued us (pun intended) for as long as we have walked upon this Earth and, in many instances, has brought us closer to ruin than any war or natural disaster has ever done before. Hopefully, the use of these CD8 T cells will bring us closer to being free of the shackles of illness and disease, cleansing our future of the blight of plague. Sure, the idea of a world without sickness and disease may seem like a farfetched dream, but what is discovery if not the hope of making our dreams into reality?
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