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Immerge BioTherapeutics announces identification of PERV receptor

Charlestown, MA, May 2003 -- This week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from Immerge BioTherapeutics, Inc., announced that they have identified the receptors that are used by porcine endogenous retrovirus (PERV) in order to enter and infect a cell (PNAS; May 27, 2003; vol. 100, no. 11; 6759-6764). This is a critical discovery because it allows scientists to begin to develop strategies to prevent PERV replication. PERV has been considered a key safety issue in the development of xenotransplantation using pig organs because the virus has shown the ability to infect some human cells in laboratory tissue cultures. The study was performed in a collaborative effort between Immerge and the academic groups of Professors Robin Weiss, University College, London, UK and Daniel Salomon, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA.

"Our identification of the PERV receptor is a major step forward because it allows us to address fundamental aspects of the biology of this virus," said Dr Clive Patience, Director of the Safety Program at Immerge. "For instance, PERV has grown in only three of approximately 40 human cell lines that we and others have tested. To date, we have not understood why most human cells do not support PERV growth. We can now begin to address this type of fundamental issue."

PERV is a virus that all pigs are born with, which poses no harm to the pig itself. However, unlike other viruses, which can be eliminated either through breeding or raising pigs in a clean lab environment, multiple copies of PERV form part of the normal genomic DNA of pigs and are therefore passed from one generation to the next.

"PERV is of concern in developing xenotransplantation of porcine organs towards an accepted procedure in clinical medicine," commented Professor Robin Weiss from University College, London. "We need to understand the basic virology of PERV, and indeed other porcine microorganisms, before xenotran
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Contact: Susan Hayes
shayesconsult@earthlink.net
212-533-4472
S. Hayes Consulting
26-May-2003


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