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

package of genes that cells pass from one to another. Simply put, herpes cannot integrate the new DNA into the host genome. Instead, the DNA is adrift in the nucleus, where it's silenced within a few weeks. The short time span spells trouble when scientists are trying to treat a disease that requires the genes to be active for months or years.

That's where Sleeping Beauty comes in.

In molecular biology, Sleeping Beauty is a mobile genetic element that jumps into and out of longer segments of DNA. It's normally silent, but years ago a team of scientists was able to activate or "awaken" the snippet hence, Sleeping Beauty. Since Sleeping Beauty actually integrates segments of DNA into mammalian genomes, it sidesteps the main difficulties that herpes encounters inside a cell: Genes integrated within the cell's chromosomes by Sleeping Beauty operate for much longer periods of time. The drawback: The molecule can insert only small snippets of DNA.

So the Rochester team brought herpes and Sleeping Beauty together in an attempt to get the best of both worlds: Delivery of the bigger genetic package made possible by herpes, and the integration of the DNA into the host genome made possible by Sleeping Beauty.

And that's exactly what happened. In the tag-team approach funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, herpes gets the genetic package into the right neighborhood, the cell's nucleus, and then Sleeping Beauty delivers the package precisely where it needs to go to be most effective into the cellular genome.

In the current experiments, the herpes virus carried into cell nuclei the gene for green fluorescent protein, which allows scientists to track where the gene is active. The team also outfitted the herpes package with special molecular signals that Sleeping Beauty would recognize. Separately, the team introduced Sleeping Beauty into the cells. When the two met, Sleeping Beauty transferred the gene
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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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