Researchers Mimic How Viruses Infect Cells And Deliver Genetic Material
Researchers anticipate applying the approach to gene therapy, which strategically corrects defective genes, such as cancer causing genes, even though gene therapy is still in its infancy with evident challenges for targeting damaged cells and creating corrective genes.
The investigators pointed out that an equally important challenge lies in obtaining transportation methods for the corrective genes into the cell, a problematic task due to the poor permeability of cell membranes.
The team created a model peptide sequence, named GeT (gene transporter) which wraps around genes, transporting them through cell membranes and helping them to escape from intracellular degradation traps, hence duplicating the mechanism used by viruses to infect human cells.
The Peptide sequence, GeT, was created with the intention of undergoing differential membrane-induced folding, a process in which the peptide changes its structure in response to only one type of membrane, enabling the peptide and viruses to carry genes into the cell. Researchers discovered that the property also makes it antibacterial and therefore capable of gene transfer even in bacteria-challenged environments.
To obtain evidence proving their concept, researchers used GeT to transfer a synthetic gene encoding for a green fluorescent protein (a protein whose fluorescence in cells can be seen and monitored using fluorescence microscopy). GeT's concept provides a possible means for non-viral delivery systems and specialist treatments of genetic disorders.
The research conducted at NPL, is part of the NPL-led international research project 'Multiscale measurements in biophysical systems', and is jointly funded by NPL and the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance.
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Chem. Commun., 2011, 47, 9045-9047. DOI: 10.1039/C1CC13043A
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