New Nonviral Gene Therapy System Could Help Fight Cancer

used to inject genes into these cells. But not all cancer cells within a tumor divide at the same time. Current cancer therapies kill dividing cells, but dormant cells can divide after treatment, causing the tumor to come back.

The T7 system would allow scientists to inject a corrective gene into a tumor that would begin working immediately on dividing cells, then lie in wait for other cells that divide later.

And, Wagner said, the system would not have the negative side effects of some current cancer treatments because only diseased cells are attacked.

"This is the benefit of this technique over chemotherapy," he said. "Chemotherapy kills all cells on contact, even healthy cells. The T7 system allows for a more selective treatment that targets only the cancer cells, leaving healthy cells untouched."

The key to T7 lies in its ability to start the genetic process outside the nucleus. The system is loaded with everything it needs for gene expression, including materials similar to those found inside a cell's nucleus.

While other gene therapy techniques use only gene DNA, the T7 method uses DNA prebound with T7 RNA polymerase -- a protein that causes the gene to begin producing RNA, an important step in protein synthesis within a cell.

The T7 system is used to inject DNA and T7 RNA polymerase into a region of tissue or muscle containing diseased cells. The DNA is taken up by the cells, and the genes begin to express in the cytoplasm.

The problem with most gene therapy techniques is getting the corrective genes inside the nucleus of diseased cells, said Xandra Breakefield, professor of neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. By allowing genes to express in the cytoplasm, the T7 system eliminates that problem, said Breakefield, who has experimented with the T7 system.

"The success of gene therapy in cancer treatment depends on gene delivery," she said. "By cutting out som

Contact: Kelli Whitlock
Ohio University

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