GENE THERAPY: Researcher discovers safer way to keep cancer out of studied genes

Pullman, UNITED STATES
VIJAY SHAH via Medlab

Grant Trobridge, an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at Washington State University engaged in research, has discovered a method of reducing harmful cancer cells which occasionally surface while conducting gene therapy, genetics events site Medlab reported this week.

Trobridge and his team have found a way to change how a virus carries a beneficial gene to its target cell. Under natural conditions, viruses attached themselves to the surface of a cell, and use the cell to replicate themselves, often rupturing and killing the cell in the process. Trobridge’s modified ‘viral vectors’ as these altered viruses are known, also have the side effect of reducing the number of cancerous cells, and the research team at Washington State believe that the vectors may be useful for treating blood diseases. The team plan to adapt the viral vector technology to help fight SCID-X1, a potentially life-threatening disease that occurs in babies, and is also known as “Boy in the Bubble Syndrome.”

 

 

Gene therapy, a relatively recent branch of science, has useful applications for biomedicines, and may eventually be capable of tackling genetic diseases by replacing defective genes with repaired ones prepared in a laboratory.

Trobridge and colleagues adapted their vectors from a type of virus, foamy retrovirus, named for its habit of creating foam under certain conditions. Retroviruses are popular choices for viral gene therapy as they rarely infect humans and do not activate genes for dangerous diseases such as cancer. Gene scientists also find retroviruses easier to work with as they like to insert their own genes into the host cell’s genome when they breach a cell’s membrane, making it easier for the researcher to study the virus’ effects on the genetic structure.

The Washington State University team altered the vector to make it safer by changing how it behaves with a targetted stem cell, a type of junior cell that can develop into anything from reproductive cells to muscle cells. The altered virus can then insert itself into safer parts of the genome, avoiding areas where genes for life-threatening conditions reside. The vector successfully avoided areas of the human genome which has an abundance of cancer-causing genes. The researchers hope that this new discovery will be ready for clinical trials within five years.

“Our goal is to develop a safe and effective therapy for SCID-X patients and their families,” said Trobridge. “We’ve started to translate this in collaboration with other scientists and medical doctors into the clinic.”

Trobridge and team have published their results in Scientific Reports, an online open-access journal produced by the Nature Publishing Group.

SOURCES:
Informa Accounts, The Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind/lists/informa-accounts
Saudi Health, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/Health_Saudi
“Researcher Develops Safer Gene Therapy” – MEDLAB/Informa Life Sciences Exhibitions (14 November 2016) http://www.medlabme.com/press-releases/industry-updates/researcher-develops-safer-gene-therapy/
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:Symian virus.png” – Phoebus87, Wikimedia Commons (19 July 2007) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Symian_virus.png [This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic licence.]

 

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