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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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October 13, 2011

XMRV - Work Went On

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Posted by Derek

I really hesitate to bring this up again, considering the sorts of comments that came in the last time I mentioned XMRV around here. But I wanted to note a new paper that's come out. The authors reveal the crystal structures of the XMRV protease complexed with a number of known inhibitors. Some of them are what you'd expect from homology with similar enzymes, and some have unusual features.

But the details of the structures aren't the main point here - what's worth noting is that they exist. And they took time, and effort, and money to obtain. What's more, this sort of thing also went in several drug companies with an interest in antiviral research, not that any of that work will ever see the light of day, as opposed to this academic publication. Those people accusing the scientific world of callously ignoring the whole area should sit down with these X-ray structures for a few minutes.

No, XMRV was taken seriously by the medical research community, and a lot of serious effort was put into it. That's why it's such a shame that the whole hypothesis has ended up the way it has.

Comments (17) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Infectious Diseases


1. barry on October 13, 2011 1:17 PM writes...

there's a large premium placed on being first, whether in natural products synthesis or in drug discovery. Sometimes this leads to reports of the synthesis of a "purported structure" that had been mis-identified, sometimes this leads to resources spent on a target that turns out to be irrelevant to human disease. If we're not stumbling like this occasionally, we're not running hard enough.

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2. RRM on October 13, 2011 1:25 PM writes...

Why release this study if XMRV is really dead?

No, It is very clear that this study was only done to create the illusion that XMRV was seriously investigated. The fact that they are releasing this now is only evidence that XMRV is being burried by the medical establishment, while we are facing an epidemic that will go worse than AIDS in Africa, only beause scientists are sexist guys that don't care about women's diseases.

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3. Curious Wavefunction on October 13, 2011 1:41 PM writes...

-Why release this study if XMRV is really dead?

XMRV may be dead, but curiosity-driven research is not. We are still interested in understanding the structure and function of XMRV at a basic molecular level and this is what such studies are geared at. Fortunately there are still scientists who manage to rise above the political mudslinging and continue to conduct basic science research on interesting systems irrespective of their applications.

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4. SRoberts on October 13, 2011 2:07 PM writes...

"Worse than AIDS"??!
Sorry, as a female scientist, I can tell you that X-ray crystallography is a huge investment and a definite indication that XMRV was seriously studied.

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5. Sleepless in SSF on October 13, 2011 2:09 PM writes...

@2 RRM

"No, It is very clear that this study was only done to create the illusion that XMRV was seriously investigated."

Wow -- paranoid much?

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6. Aspirin on October 13, 2011 2:19 PM writes...

"Why release this study if XMRV is really dead?"'s called "science". You know, scientists going about their usual business of studying proteins and small molecules that bind to them...that kind of thing. All this does not suddenly stop because there's no connection between XMRV and CFS or because the paranoid have banded together.

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7. Jim on October 13, 2011 2:20 PM writes...

"...only beause scientists are sexist guys that don't care about women's diseases."

And Cervarix and Gardasil were invented for the thousand of male cervical cancer victims...

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8. Anonymous on October 13, 2011 2:20 PM writes...

I think RRM was being sarcastic........

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9. Anonymous on October 13, 2011 2:32 PM writes...

I have a feeling RRM wasn't being entirely serious. RRM has commented before...

I think the AIDS line is maybe even a bridge too far for most of the visitors in the last thread that go to such great lengths to find all the boogeymen that are plotting against those that would cure the sick.

What is sad is when considering the earlier comments on this subject, I, and I am sure most others, fully expected a response along those lines.

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10. Wile E. Coyote, Genius on October 13, 2011 3:13 PM writes...

As we all know, AIDS was created by the CIA. Wouldn't be surprising that CFS was, too, and it's causative XMRV virus. Those mysgonist, homophobic men running the CIA obviously want to eliminate all the gays and the women too. (Read that dripping with sarcasm).

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11. RRM on October 13, 2011 3:56 PM writes...

I thought it was obvious I was sarcastic. In hindsight, I should have included a smilie. : )

FYI: I didn't make up those comments about Africa and sexism. I just took them from Judy Mikovits (that co-authored the XMRV/CFS original paper):

"[...]unless we do something now this could be the worst epidemic in U.S. history. {...] Our continent will be like HIV Africa only worse!"

and (explaining why she presented at an AoA conference that also featured Wakefield):

"So research dollars will go for XMRV infected men with cancer but not women with CFS.[...] "[This} left me no recourse but to play the autism card! Will they ignore the children too?"

[Note: I posted this clarification earlier, but the spam filer caught it - apparently because I provided a internet link as source. I'm reposting without link (just google the quote). Appy polly loggies for an essentially duplicate post if/when the original gets approved]

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12. Tomm on October 13, 2011 9:41 PM writes...

No one denies that there are thousands of people that are very sick with CFS. They briefly had hope of a miricle cure, but those hopes have been dashed as the XMRV hypothesis hasn't held up.

The only difference between CFS patients and patients of many other afflictions is that they don't die quickly, they just linger on, sick, for decades. I have a lot of sympathy for them.

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13. Kathy D. on October 13, 2011 10:47 PM writes...

Isn't it possible to discuss XMRV, MLV, and CFIDS without sarcasm and hostility?

It is really destructive to those of us who have this wretched disease. Is anyone aware that the vitriol expressed -- since October, 2009, the arguing, the slings and arrows cast and the ongoing anger -- worsens our symptoms? The stress and level of "discourse," immediately aggravates some of the symptoms of this disease.

So, for our sakes -- those of us who have CFIDS -- can the arguments be more objective and scientific, without sarcasm, mental jousting, competitiveness?

Seriously, if it continues this way, those of us who have CFIDS won't be able to read about what's happening or react, write, etc.

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14. aidan walsh on October 14, 2011 6:39 AM writes...

XMRV was 'somewhat' studied but never fully investigated nor has there been further investigations into 45% of the hiv virus which was discovered by scientists in California with pieces of pathogens attached...chronic fatigue syndrome or call it what you want to call it is a 21st century cover up of biological warfare agents unleashed...this is not conspiracy it is fact... Dr. Garth Nicolson has already gone public about this cover-up...Any time scientists attempt to investigate these illnesses they hit the wall with all the politics involved and the main reason is it is all a cover-up and all part of hiv unleashed to the world by sick scientists...Wake up everyone they could not give a damn about any of you and support 'private' fundes research because that is the only place help will be given and not the nih/cdc...

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15. MTK on October 14, 2011 7:40 AM writes...


This would be the same Dr. Garth Nicholson who claims that he and his wife were informed of the 9/11 attacks prior to it happening, right? The same ones who claim that his wife, Dr. Nancy Nicolson, learned before 9/11 that she was adopted and that her real parents were Lucky Luiciano and a woman who controlled the Vatican finances. The same ones who claim that they learned about 9/11 on a trip to Tunisia from an unnamed N. African diplomat who told them about the plot and that Osama Bin Laden would be blamed, but that really it was a Vatican/Mafia plot. The same ones the FBI interviewed and examined their passports and found no record of entering Tunisia. The same Nicolsons who have globbed on to every purported theory, assertion, or conspiracy they can find.

Of course, Nicolson is most well-known for hiw work on mycoplasma and Gulf War Syndrome, which he states was a biological weapon. He claimed to have found mycoplasma in 50% of Gulf War Syndrome sufferers using PCR. His work, however, has not been replicated by anyone. Most notably Dr. Shyh Ching Lo, who failed to find any mycoplasma in Gulf War veterans. Yep, that's the same Lo from Alter and Lo.

C'mon, Aidan.

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16. Jon on October 14, 2011 8:32 AM writes...

Wasn't there a report the other day that low-level exposure to sarin was a possible cause of Gulf War Syndrome?

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17. DannoH on October 14, 2011 1:20 PM writes...

I dont know that exposure to organophosphonates is the sole contributor to GWS. I worked with that crap for almost two years and exhibit none of the symptoms normally associated with it. I would postulate that it is a whole collection of physical and behavioural variables that come into play to produce the spectrum of symptoms that you see in the population.

Of course I am no MD, so with a grain of salt taketh.

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