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What is “feature acquisition”? Why is it important in finding the origin of SARS-CoV-2?

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Both due to unanswered questions about the origin of the coronavirus pandemic U.S. government And the scientist We are seeking deeper investigation into the validity of the claim that the virus may have escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

Much of the debate surrounds “feature acquisition” research.So the conversation asked David Gillam And Rebecca Moritz, Working closely with virologists on a daily basis to ensure the safety and security of research, and Sam Weiss Evans And Megan PalmerAs a science and technology policy expert, I will explain the meaning of this term and why this type of research is important.

What does feature acquisition mean?

Any living thing can acquire new abilities and traits, or “acquire” “functions”. This can occur through natural selection or researcher experiments. In the study, many different types of experiments generate functions, some raising specific safety and security concerns.

Scientists use a variety of techniques to modify an organism, depending on the nature of the organism itself and its ultimate goal. Some of these methods involve making direct changes at the level of the genetic code. Others may involve placing the organism in an environment that selects functions related to genetic alterations.

Acquisition of function can occur in either natural or laboratory organisms.Some lab examples include creating more Salt and drought resistant plants Or modify the vector of the disease to generate mosquitoes Strong against dengue transmission..Acquiring features can also be useful for environmental reasons such as changes E. coli To be able to do it Convert plastic waste into valuable goods..

In the current debate over SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, the acquisition of function is related to the virus becoming easier to move between humans or more deadly to humans. It has a much narrower meaning. However, it is important to remember that the term “feature acquisition” itself covers much more than this type of study.

Why do researchers work to acquire functions against potentially dangerous pathogens?

Feature acquisition experiments can help researchers test scientific theory, develop new technologies, and find cures for infectious diseases.For example, in 2003 Outbreak of original SARS-CoV Outbreaks, researchers have developed a way to study the virus in the laboratory.One of the experiments Propagate the virus in mice They were able to study it. This work has led to a model for studying viruses and testing potential vaccines and treatments.

Feature-acquisition studies focused on potential pandemic pathogens are premised on helping researchers better understand the evolution of pathogens, prepare for pandemic responses, and develop treatments and countermeasures. It is supported.

However, critics argue that this study, which predicts potential pandemic pathogens, does not bring substantial benefits and is not worth the potential risk. And they say that anticipating such threats can be achieved by other means, such as biological research. For example, the current pandemic offers many lessons on the social and behavioral dynamics of disease prevention measures, which could lead to powerful new research programs on the cultural aspects of pandemic preparedness. Therefore, understanding when the risks of feature acquisition research outweigh the potential benefits and alternatives remains a subject of debate.

What are some examples of feature acquisition studies, and how dangerous are they?

Some potential outcomes of feature acquisition studies may include the creation of organisms that are more contagious or toxic than the original organism, or that circumvent current detection methods or available therapies. .. Another example is manipulating an organism that can grow in another part of the organism, such as bypassing current detection methods or available therapies, or the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.

There is no such thing as zero risk in conducting an experiment. Therefore, the question is whether certain feature acquisition studies can be used to perform with an acceptable level of security and security. Risk mitigation measures.. These risk mitigation strategies include the use of biocontainment facilities, exposure control planning, rigorous operational procedures and training, and incident response planning. These efforts include dedication and meticulous attention to detail at multiple levels of the institution.

Lab incidents will continue to occur. Robust biosafety and biosecurity systems, along with appropriate institutional response, help ensure that these incidents are not significant. challenging It is about ensuring that the research carried out, with or without feature acquisition, poses undue risk to researchers, the general public and the environment.

Determining whether a particular experiment with a potential pathogen should be performed remains a difficult and controversial topic.

How do experts determine which feature acquisition studies are too risky?

There are multiple ways to answer this question. The first is when research is aimed at developing biological weapons.The· United Nations Biological Weapons ConventionEffective in 1975, it prohibits States parties from developing, producing, stockpiling, or otherwise acquiring or sharing biological agents, toxins, and equipment that are not justified for peaceful or defensive purposes. Therefore, there should be no research that deliberately develops biological weapons, whether or not they acquire functionality.

Another way to answer the question is to focus on the content of the study, not the intent of the study. Through experience, researchers and governments have created lists of both experiments and organisms that require additional monitoring due to potential safety and security risks. One example of this occurred in 2012 when an influenza researcher voluntarily suspended a function acquisition study involving the infectivity of the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 virus.After that, the U.S. government Imposed a moratorium Both moratoriums were lifted by the end of 2017, following long risk discussions and research, and the development of additional monitoring and reporting requirements.

Over the last decade, the United States has developed surveillance for research that could be directly abused. Malicious purpose.. This includes “Dual-use research of concernPolicy on “(DURC) and”Potential pandemic pathogens“Strengthened to be contagious or toxic.

The important point is that our understanding is constantly evolving. Just before the COVID-19 pandemic begins The U.S. Government has begun reviewing and updating its policies.. What lessons can be learned from this pandemic and how it changes our understanding of the value of feature acquisition research remains an open question. But one thing that is likely to happen is to rethink the assumptions we have made about biological research, security, and social relationships.This may be an opportunity to Review and enhancement Biosecurity and biosafety governance system.


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Quote: What is “feature acquisition”? Why is it important in finding the origin of SARS-CoV-2? (June 21, 2021) Obtained June 21, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-06-gain-of-function-sars-cov-.html

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