Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Gene Therapy: the Search for the Safe and Gentle Method


Scientists from three countries study innovative DNA transport element

Treating genetic diseases by introducing functional genes into the human organism: researchers from three European countries are aiming for a breakthrough in this process, known as gene therapy, using a new methodology. The network of scientists, including the German Research Centre for Biotechnology in Braunschweig (GBF), is working to further develop a certain type of DNA element, called an episome, for this purpose. The European Union is contributing financial support for the “Epi-Vector-Programme.”

During the 1990s great promise for gene therapy emerged for the first time. At this time, bio-scientists and others from the medical profession first attempted to treat people with hereditary defects by implanting a functional version of a damaged gene into the patient’s body. The initial high hopes for this process were cruelly disappointed when several of the patients contracted cancer and died.

Professor Jürgen Bode, the work group leader at GBF, is convinced that the cause of these deaths can be found in the vectors used at the time; i.e the transport elements by which the DNA was injected into a patient’s cells. “Certain viruses that were rendered harmless were used,” notes Prof. Bode, “into whose genetic substance the desired gene was integrated.” “This,” Bode explains, “was essentially a sensible approach because viruses inject their own DNA into the cells they attack; in fact, they do this at those points where it is most convenient for their own survival. Then, they let themselves be reproduced by our own cells.” The downside is that unfortunately we have no control over the location where this occurs on our chromosomes, says Bode. If a virus invades a key genetic region of a cell it can severely inhibit the functions of genetic information. In the worst case scenario, this can lead to the breakdown and loss of genes which, in turn, can result in cancer.

The GBF and the rest of the research consortium are focusing on a new type of vector called an episome. Episomes are DNA elements that do not combine themselves in the genetic substance of the host DNA. Instead, they become anchored in a reversible manner only to certain support molecules in the nucleus of the cell – the same molecules used for stabilisation by human DNA. The necessary “DNA anchors” were identified during the Human Genome Project. “Now it is possible,” says Prof. Bode, “to head straight for the stabilisation of cell nucleus molecules.” The episomes constructed are independent DNA ring molecules which have attached themselves to a chromosome in the host cell. Their information is jointly read with that of the chromosomes and together they multiply with the chromosomes every time cell division occurs.

Researchers in the Epi-Vector-Project now want to find out if episomes are suitable for a gentler form of gene therapy. Professor Bode warns however that quick successes are not likely. “Even if this method functions, considerable groundwork would still be required before the process could be applied in the medical field.”

More about the Epi-Vector-Programme

Participants in the EU-supported research programme “Episomal Vectors for Human Gene Therapy” include seven scientific institutes from Germany, England and the Netherlands. The German project partners are the universities of Witten and Hamburg, and the GBF in Braunschweig. Coordinator of the project is the molecular biologist, Dr. Dean Jackson, in Manchester/UK.

Manfred Braun | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht ‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie

nachricht Calcium Induces Chronic Lung Infections
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>