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Name: Flora R Pitchford
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Question:
What are the effects of nonionizing radiation on DNA , RNA or any other cell components? Is the HIV virus ever inactive? Where is it hiding for years at a time?



Replies:
1) non-ionizing radiation should have little effect on DNA, RNA, or other cell components. If, by definition, individual photons are not capable of ionizing (i.e., knocking off electrons thus creating a charged moiety) they should have little effect on molecules within the cell. Obviously, this is not always strictly true. Excessive heat (IR radiation) may not ionize, but can do damage. And the same of is true of high doses of other "non-ionizing" radiations (e.g., radio waves, etc.)
2) HIV, like a number of viruses, can be inactive for prolonged periods. If it simply inserts its genetic material into a host cell's genes, it may "live" quietly for as long as that host cell or its descendents survive. Due to various factors (e.g., stress) some viral genes may turn on at some time, causing the cell to start cranking viral components. These may bud off from the cell or, in some cases, may fill it up and destroy it. The reasons why viruses "choose" one route or the other is often not clear.

Ethan Allen



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