Science Re-Write

I did some “editing” to my manuscript before my writing hiatus but I need to do a major re-write before I get ready to query. I need to do the ubiquitous character and plot tightening re-write but I also need to do a science re-write. The manuscript is a science-y political suspense (a la Michael Crichton) and the basic science is (I think) pretty solid. But it’s vague at best. When Jacob read it, he complained that he wanted more details. I argued with him for a while – partially because I worry that too much science will be annoying to a non-science-y reader and partially because I just didn’t want to. But he was right…

So in the novel I have a virus that is created as a treatment for cancer, but it’s still too damaging when it’s accidentally released. A century later, the main character is trying to cure it. I was very pleased to find some research that’s currently being done on neutrallizing virulent lipid-envelope viruses (like ebola). They’ve found a compound that damages the lipid bi-layer in the envelope of the virus and, since a virus can’t repair damage by itself (it needs a host cell to do those things) it can’t attach to a healthy cell anymore. So it doesn’t kill the virus exactly, it just renders it unable to perform mischief. It also damages the healthy cells – it’s a full spectrum lipid disrupter – but a normal cell DOES have the internal mechanisms to repair the cell membrane. So the trick would be to make sure the damage to the healthy cells doesn’t happen faster than the cells can repair the damage. In other words, the compound would make you sick, but not as sick as ebola. Which is dead, after all.

The other part of this research that is interesting is that, in order to study their test virus (some super aggressive, irresistible virus called Nipah) in a reasonable setting, they stripped the envelope off the virus and stuck it onto a pretty benign virus instead. That way, they could just test on the envelope and if they could find a way to stop the virus envelope from attaching to a healthy cell then it doesn’t matter what the virus interior is doing. This kind of manipulation is the basis for another type of research that pertains to my story – cancer gene therapy.

Scientists can take a virus envelope that easily bypasses a body’s defenses and insert cancer-busting genetic material in place of (or on top of) the virus. Once the new virion invades the body, it uses the virus envelope to attach to the cells and re-write their genetic material in a way designed by scientists. Scientists are even experimenting with using the envelope from the HIV virus as a cure for HIV. How cool is that? They’re also using something similar to stop transplant rejections by putting a “trigger” in the transplant cells using a designer virion that prevents the transplant cels from creating the protein that causes the rejection. If the host starts to reject the transplant, doctors can release the trigger and stop the chemical reaction that’s causing the rejection. I mean seriously, people are so clever.

In reading, I realized that I also need to re-imagine my lab spaces. In my mind they are are way more “hgh school chem lab” than “biohazard 4”. And if that’s what they look like in my mind, I’m sure that’s how they come accross in my text. Once I finish my virus research and write out my plan for adding that info, then I need to look into BH 2-4 and re-design my labs. I also need to research cryogeneics.

If I go to the Southwest Writer’s Conference at the end of September, that can be a good deadline for my re-writing. For the Advance Submission option (where I can send some material to be reviewed by Useful People), I probably only need the first few chapters done and those are pretty strong already. So I just need to be on track to have a submit-able manuscript just in case I run into someone who wants to see it.


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