Monday, October 2, 2023 Oct 2, 2023
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Baylor’s P3 Lab: New Steps Against AIDS

By Sara Ivey |

Nobody at Baylor University Medical Center is predicting any Andromeda Strain nightmares about runaway microbes. But they’re not taking any chances, either. That’s why Dr. Joseph Newman, assistant director of immunology at the center, works in a new research lab designed to keep the AIDS virus from spreading.

Newman and his research team are studying the use of laser light and red photosensitive dye to zap “enveloped” viruses in blood. While the nation’s blood supply has been considered safe from the AIDS virus since mid-1985, new studies give cause for alarm: people who have contracted the virus but are still in the initial incubation stage may be cleared to donate blood because tests falsely show them to be free of the AIDS virus.

Currently, donated blood that is found to contain the AIDS virus is destroyed. If Newman’s laser/dye attack proves successful, scientists would be able to kill the virus and cleanse contaminated blood.

Hence the ultra-secure P3 lab. Dr. Lester Matthews, executive director of the Baylor Research Foundation, says the lab provides “secure containment to prevent accidental release of a virus,” although he believes that any virus freed from the lab would die quickly. “Since the virus requires a living cell, if it were placed on an open surface, it would die in a matter of minutes,” explains Matthews.

Newman is elated that his AIDS research finally can be performed in Dallas (it used to be done in San Antonio). Although Newman could delegate most of the lab work to medical students and associates, he will keep working directly with the lethal viruses. “I never ask a lab worker to do something I wouldn’t do myself,” he says.