Science Magazine likes me

FlagCYFIP2My lifetime of scientific discoveries got three pats on the back from America’s most prestigious journal, Science Magazine, in their December 20 end-of-the-year special issue. Three! That’s nice.

Let’s start in the back pages, and work our way up to the cover story.

Lastly, then, there is an article on the use of my molecular handle, called the Flag peptide, to study the process of cocaine addiction. That’s a new one on me. I’ve seen this versatile molecular tool used to manipulate viruses, study cell derangements in genetic diseases, and quite a bit more, but never in tackling a modern scourge like drug addiction. The image above shows a couple of figures from the paper, in which the investigators attached my molecular handle to the nerve-cell molecule that responds to cocaine and causes nerve-cell alterations that lead to what the authors term “drug-seeking behaviors and loss of control over consumption.” I don’t think I ever expected to live to see the day they figured out how a bunch of protein molecules in one’s nerve cells reorganize themselves to cause addictive behavior, but lo and behold, that day has come and by golly, they’ve used my method to figure it out! I’m humbled and, well, not-so-humbled at the same time. Click the image for an up-close view–if you dare!

Moving up to the middle pages of the magazine, there’s a paper on a whole ‘nuther subject, involving a whole ‘nuther one of my old discoveries. There, Professor Ian Wilson of the Scripps Institute in La Jolla CA and his large team of scientists report the 3-dimensional structure of the HIV virus surface protein–the molecule responsible for grabbing human cells and penetrating them to cause the devastation of AIDS. Well well. Their fine work has demonstrated beyond a doubt that the protein is related to another well-known virus’s surface protein–that of influenza virus. So, amazingly, a connection exists between one of the mildest, and one of the deadliest, of known viruses. But, wait a minute–or wait two or three decades–I published a scientific paper on this very subject way back in 1985, and drew the very same conclusion from my “hydrophilicity analysis” of the virus’s surface protein, without the need for a major team at a major institution or 28 years of hard labor. I always knew that my old method was valuable for something! Too bad nobody else was paying attention. Oh well. It’s nice to be told you were right, even if just a bit belatedly.

Finally, right up front, Science’s cover story is entitled, “Breakthrough of the year: Cancer Immunotherapy.” Their editors declare that the time for cancer vaccines may finally have come, and cite several research breakthroughs that have led to some, in my opinion, modest steps forward in the effort to control cancer by stimulating one’s own immune system to kill it. Well, um, er. I’ve been trying to get a cancer vaccine of my own through clinical trials for more than a decade. Along the way, I’ve been stymied by lack of government funding, lack of investment by rich capitalists, and flat-out rejection by the stupendously philanthropic Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. My unsuccessful struggle to win support for the “anti-hCG vaccine,” which my coworkers and I have already shown to neutralize a hormone that cancer cells use to fool the body into immunological unresponsiveness–maybe NOW it will get some attention and the funding it deserves. We’ll see.

At least Science Magazine has seen fit to suggest the approach is worthy of some special attention. Let’s hope that includes funding. Clinical trials are expensive. And I’m getting tired of sitting on the sidelines. And I’m sure cancer sufferers don’t want to wait another decade for me to be able to tell the scientific world “I told you so.”

About Tom Hopp

Thomas P Hopp is a scientist and author living in Seattle. He writes Peyton McKean mystery stories and the Dinosaur Wars science fiction series.
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