While replacing the infection-causing genes inside an ordinarily harmful retrovirus with helpful genetic material is a relatively common research practice, David Sanders and his colleagues have gone a step beyond this technique.
The group, which also includes Anthony Sanchez of the Centers for Disease Control and Purdue graduate student Scott Jeffers, has hit upon a way to simplify Ebola's outer shell as well, rendering it more easily produced in a laboratory and more effective at delivering genes to defective cells. Since unmodified Ebola enters through, and attacks, the lungs, defective lung cells could benefit most from therapy based on this discovery.
"We are adding a new tool to the gene-therapy toolbox," said Sanders, associate professor of biological sciences in Purdue's School of Science. "Up to this point, modified retroviruses could only be injected. Now we have a potential method of treating lung conditions with an inhaled retrovirus that is more easily produced in the lab than the version found in nature."
The research appears in Sunday's (12/15) Journal of Virology.
Gene therapy is the introduction of new genetic material into an organism for medical benefit, such as correcting the genetic defect responsible for cystic fibrosis. While viruses are often thought of as harmful, their ability to introduce new genes into cells gives them great potential for gene therapy.
Ordinarily, a virus injects its own genetic material into a cell, but scientists have learned how to "borrow" the outer shell from a harmful virus and fill it up with other, beneficial genetic material that heals rather than harms the reci
Contact: Chad Boutin