Rice University researchers find new possibilities for benign, ‘tunable’ virus
Rice University scientists have designed a tunable virus that works like a safe deposit box. It takes two keys to open it and release its therapeutic cargo.
An adeno-associated virus capsid (blue) modified by peptides (red) inserted to lock the virus is the result of research at Rice University into a new way to target cancerous and other diseased cells. The peptides are keyed to proteases overexpressed at the site of diseased tissues; they unlock the capsid and allow it to deliver its therapeutic cargo. (Credit: Junghae Suh/Rice University)
The Rice lab of bioengineer Junghae Suh has developed an adeno-associated virus (AAV) that unlocks only in the presence of two selected proteases, enzymes that cut up other proteins for disposal. Because certain proteases are elevated at tumor sites, the viruses can be designed to target and destroy the cancer cells.
The work appears online this week in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano. AAVs are fairly benign and have become the object of intense study as delivery vehicles for gene therapies. Researchers often try to target AAVs to cellular receptors that may be slightly overexpressed on diseased cells. The Rice lab takes a different approach. “We were looking for other types of biomarkers beyond cellular receptors present at disease sites,” Suh said.
“In breast cancer, for example, it’s known the tumor cells oversecrete extracellular proteases, but perhaps more important are the infiltrating immune cells that migrate into the tumor microenvironment and start dumping out a whole bunch of proteases as well. “So that’s what we’re going after to do targeted delivery. Our basic idea is to create viruses that, in the locked configuration, can’t do anything. They’re inert,” she said.
When programmed AAVs encounter the right protease keys at sites of disease, “these viruses unlock, bind to the cells and deliver payloads that will either kill the cells for cancer therapy or deliver genes that can fix them for other disease applications.” Suh’s lab genetically inserts peptides into the self-assembling AAVs to lock the capsids, the hard shells that protect genes contained within.
The target proteases recognize the peptides “and chew off the locks,” effectively unlocking the virus and allowing it to bind to the diseased cells. “If we were just looking for one protease, it might be at the cancer site, but it could also be somewhere else in your body where you have inflammation. This could lead to undesirable side effects,” she said.
“By requiring two different proteases – let’s say protease A and protease B – to open the locked virus, we may achieve higher delivery specificity since the chance of having both proteases elevated at a site becomes smaller.” In the future, molecular-imaging approaches will be used to detect both the identity and concentration of elevated proteases.
“With that information, we would be able to pick a virus device from our panel of engineered variants that has the right properties to target that disease site. That’s where we want to go,” she said. Suh said elevated proteases are found around many diseased tissues. She suggested these protease-activatable viruses may be useful for the treatment of not only cancers but also neurological diseases, such as stroke, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, and heart diseases, including myocardial infarction and congestive heart failure. The ultimate vision of this technology is to design viruses that can carry out a combination of steps for targeting.
“To increase the specificity of virus unlocking, you can imagine creating viruses that require many more keys to open,” she said. “For example, you may need both proteases A and B as well as a cellular receptor to unlock the virus. The work reported here is a good first step toward this goal.”
Co-authors are Rice alumni Justin Judd and Abhinav Tiwari; graduate students Michelle Ho, Eric Gomez and Christopher Dempsey; Oleg Igoshin, an associate professor of bioengineering; and Jonathan Silberg, an associate professor of biochemistry and cell biology, all at Rice; and Kim Van Vliet, an assistant research scientist, and Mavis Agbandje-McKenna, a professor, both at the University of Florida. Suh is an assistant professor of bioengineering. The National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas supported the research.
David Ruth | Eurek Alert!
Rice University lab runs crowd-sourced competition to create 'big data' diagnostic tools
30.06.2016 | Rice University
A protein coat helps chromosomes keep their distance
30.06.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
Since the completion of the human genome an important goal has been to elucidate the function of the now known proteins: a new molecular method enables the investigation of the function for thousands of proteins in parallel. Applying this new method, an international team of researchers with leading participation of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) was able to identify hundreds of previously unknown interactions among proteins.
The human genome and those of most common crops have been decoded for many years. Soon it will be possible to sequence your personal genome for less than 1000...
3D printing revolutionized the manufacturing of complex shapes in the last few years. Using additive depositing of materials, where individual dots or lines...
R2D2, a joint project to analyze and development high-TRL processes and technologies for manufacture of flexible organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has been successfully completed.
In contrast to point light sources like LEDs made of inorganic semiconductor crystals, organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are light-emitting surfaces. Their...
High resolution rotational spectroscopy reveals an unprecedented number of conformations of an odorant molecule – a new world record!
In a recent publication in the journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter...
Strands of cow cartilage substitute for ink in a 3D bioprinting process that may one day create cartilage patches for worn out joints, according to a team of engineers. "Our goal is to create tissue that can be used to replace large amounts of worn out tissue or design patches," said Ibrahim T. Ozbolat, associate professor of engineering science and mechanics. "Those who have osteoarthritis in their joints suffer a lot. We need a new alternative treatment for this."
Cartilage is a good tissue to target for scale-up bioprinting because it is made up of only one cell type and has no blood vessels within the tissue. It is...
30.06.2016 | Event News
28.06.2016 | Event News
09.06.2016 | Event News
30.06.2016 | Health and Medicine
30.06.2016 | Life Sciences
30.06.2016 | Physics and Astronomy