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Sleeping Beauty hooks up with herpes to fight brain disease
Date:1/8/2010

field of gene therapy is just beginning to yield some successes for patients. Improvements like this are crucial for increasing the number of patients who might benefit from such an approach," said Bowers, who is an associate professor of Neurology, Microbiology and Immunology, and of Pharmacology and Physiology.

The research is part of a decades-long endeavor by scientists trying to get the right genes into the right cells at the right time to improve human health.

In the new work, scientists dramatically increased the size of the "genetic payload" they can deliver to brain cells compared to some conventional techniques, nearly tripling the amount of genetic material by some measures. They hope to deliver even bigger genes in the future.

The team did this by bringing together in a new way two molecular players, herpes and Sleeping Beauty, which are commonly used in molecular technology.

For years Bowers' team has been using the herpes virus HSV-1, the type that causes cold sores to shuttle genes into cells. Viruses like herpes are adept at infecting human cells, and scientists like Bowers use such viruses to carry into cells genes that would help people who are sick. Bowers and colleagues modify the viruses extensively, removing the portions that could make a person sick and using the portions that the virus uses to gain access to human cells.

Many scientists use other viruses, such as lentiviruses or a cold-related virus known as adeno-associated virus (AAV), to do a similar job. Each virus has its strengths and weaknesses when it comes to gene therapy. Herpes, for instance, readily infects cells, and it can carry a huge amount of genetic material, typically 15 to 30 times the amount of DNA that other viruses can carry into a cell.

But herpes as a genetic tool has a couple of big weaknesses. While the virus can deliver DNA into the nucleus of a cell, the genetic payload it carries does not become part of the
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Contact: Tom Rickey
tom_rickey@urmc.rochester.edu
585-275-7954
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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