Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Gene Therapy: the Search for the Safe and Gentle Method

09.11.2004


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:
http://www.gbf.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Immune Defense Without Collateral Damage
23.01.2017 | Universität Basel

nachricht The interactome of infected neural cells reveals new therapeutic targets for Zika
23.01.2017 | D'Or Institute for Research and Education

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>