VIRTUAL HIV/AIDS RESEARCH AND TREATMENT
Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/06/17
Rian Malan had expressed a certain degree of astonishment when HIV/AIDS experts ventured that their computer programs were becoming so competent that it would soon be unnecessary to gather actual data about numbers of people infected with HIV, numbers dying from AIDS, and the like (“Africa isn’t dying of Aids”, The Spectator [London], 14 December 2003).
Since then, HIV/AIDS computers have certainly been gaining ground. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now likes to fill its reports with “Estimates” instead of with actual reported counts—the 2005 Surveillance Report, for example, has 7 tables of estimated cases of HIV/AIDS and AIDS; one of estimated deaths of people with AIDS; and for “Persons Living with HIV/AIDS, AIDS, or HIV Infection (Not AIDS)” there are 6 tables, 2 maps, and 3 figures of estimated data. All these estimates, of course, are outputs of computer models whose inputs include unsubstantiated assumptions plus — surely? — some counts of actually reported cases. Until about a decade ago, these Surveillance Reports had presented counts of reported cases. By disseminating estimates instead of empirical counts, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention masks any evidence that there might be of inadequacies in the computer models or in the theories and assumptions that underlie the models.
But this is only a start, apparently. Soon, it seems, it will be possible to learn everything we need to know about HIV in human physiology through the use of supercomputers in the form of a VPH, the Virtual Physiological Human:
UCL in the News: Scientists use supercomputers to test HIV treatment
Rebecca Thomson, ‘Computer Weekly’, 30 January 2008
“Scientists in London are using networks of supercomputers to test a treatment for HIV.
The computing method, called the Virtual Physiological Human (VPH), links networks of computers across the world to simulate the internal workings of the human body. It can then be used to simulate the effects of a drug. …
Peter Coveney [UCL Chemistry] said that although nine drugs are currently available to inhibit the HIV virus, doctors have no way of matching a drug to the unique profile of the virus as it mutates in each patient. Instead, they prescribe a course of drugs and then test whether these are working by analysing the patient’s immune response.
One of the goals of VPH is for such ‘trial and error’ methods to eventually be replaced by patient-specific treatments tailored to a person’s unique genotype. …
Coveney said, ‘This study represents a first step towards the ultimate goal of “on-demand” medical computing, where doctors could one day “borrow” supercomputing time from the national grid to make critical decisions on life-saving treatments.
We have some difficult questions ahead of us, such as how much of our computing resources could be devoted to helping patients and at what price. At present, such simulations – requiring a substantial amount of computing power – might prove costly for the National Health Service, but technological advances and those in the economics of computing would bring costs down.'”
See also “‘Virtual Human’ tests HIV drugs”:
“Tests on a ‘virtual physiological human’ (VPH) have simulated how well an HIV drug blocks a key protein in the lethal virus”.
For the original scientific paper, see “Rapid and accurate prediction of binding free energies for saquinavir-bound HIV-1 proteases”, Stoica et al., J. Am. Chem. Soc., 130  2639-48.
The really desirable development, of course, will be when those toxic antiretrovirals are fed to machines instead of to people.
This entry was posted on 2008/06/17 at 2:56 pm and is filed under antiretroviral drugs, clinical trials, experts, HIV absurdities. Tagged: computer models of HIV/AIDS, HIV modeling. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.