Can principles of evolution and ecology be applied to the problem of HIV infection/AIDS?
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a model of evolution capable of rapid genetic change. In vitro evolution technology could be applied toward the goal of evolving a harmless, replicating descendant of HIV. Strains of virus would be selected and evolved based on their abilities to interact benignly with immune cells. A virus which could replicate without interfering with critical immune functions might eventually emerge. Introducing this newly evolved virus to hosts who are already HIV-positive would initiate a competition between two distinct types of viral genes. A widely held principle of ecology indicates that only one gene type will survive, causing the extinction of its competitor. Viral genes evolved to function cooperatively with immune cell genes could win this competition. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) would not occur as a result of retroviral infection.