Friday, August 12, 2011

Scientists copy the ways viruses deliver genes

National Physical Laboratory (NPL) scientists have mimicked the ways viruses infect human cells and deliver their genetic material, hoping to apply the approach to gene therapy to correct defective genes such as those that cause cancer.

The researchers used the GeT (gene transporter) model peptide sequence to transfer a synthetic gene encoding for a green fluorescent protein — a protein whose fluorescence in cells can be seen and monitored using fluorescence microscopy. GeT wraps around genes, transports them through cell membranes, and helps their escape from intracellular degradation traps. The process mimics the mechanisms viruses use to infect human cells.

GeT was designed to undergo differential membrane-induced folding — a process whereby the peptide changes its structure in response to only one type of membranes. This enables the peptide, and viruses, to carry genes into the cell. GeT is antibacterial and capable of gene transfer even in bacteria-challenged environments.

The gene transporter design can serve as a potential template for non-viral delivery systems and specialist treatments of genetic disorders, the researchers said.


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