"There is a whole new radiological specialty emerging in delivering and imaging genes," said Jonathan B. Kruskal, M.D., Ph.D., section chief of abdominal imaging at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and associate professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
Dr. Kruskal discussed gene therapy today at a Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) media briefing on image-guided therapies.
Gene therapy evolved from the Human Genome Project, a 13-year endeavor by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to identify and sequence the roughly 30,000 genes in human DNA. A gene is a structure within a chromosome that dictates hereditary characteristics. By altering the gene, researchers are hoping to correct the resulting physical manifestation.
A major challenge in gene therapy is delivering genes to specific sites. Currently, there are two ways for genes to be delivered in the blood system: through viruses and using fat vesicles called liposomes. Viruses attach to specific cells and deploy their contents into the cells, including any genes they might be carrying. But viruses might also attack the cells. An alternative and safer delivery method is via liposomes, which are commonly used to deliver medicines to the body.
"Radiologists use image guidance for delivering these liposomes to specific sites, such as tumors," Dr. Kruskal said. "This delivery can also be enhanced using imaging techniques. Focused ultrasound can implode the liposomes, causing them to release their contents, including DN
Contact: Maureen Morley
Radiological Society of North America