Study could help improve gene therapy for heart disease, cancer

October 12, 2011

A Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine study could lead to improved gene therapies for conditions such as heart disease and cancer as well as more effective vaccines for tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases.

Senior author Christopher Wiethoff, PhD, and colleagues report their findings in the October issue of the . Editors spotlighted the report as one of the "articles of significant interest."

The study involved a virus that causes the common cold, called . Scientists have been trying to use a version of this virus as a for gene therapies and vaccines. (The virus is not able to reproduce and cause disease.) Administering this virus to patients causes an , which can be a double-edged sword: The reaction aids in the use of the virus in vaccines but limits its use for gene therapies.

In , one or more desired genes are introduced into the adenovirus, which is then administered to the patient. Once in the body, the virus enters targeted cells and delivers the desired genes. In heart disease patients, for example, the virus delivers genes that trigger the growth of new blood vessels in damaged . However, when the adenovirus enters a cell to deliver a desired gene, it causes an inflammatory immune response. In extreme cases, this can endanger the patient. In one highly publicized case, a University of Pennsylvania gene therapy patient named Jesse Gelsinger died from a massive immune response triggered by the use of the adenovirus.

In vaccines, the adenovirus delivers one or more genes. These genes instruct cells to produce a specific protein, which is normally part of the targeted pathogen. This protein, in turn, jump-starts the patient's immune system to attack a specific pathogen, such as the that causes tuberculosis or the parasite that causes malaria. Here, the inflammatory immune response has the beneficial effect of revving up the immune system to attack germs.

The Loyola study provides new insights into how the adenovirus triggers an immune response. The study involved immune cells from humans and mice. Researchers discovered how cells sense the adenovirus as it enters a cell. This recognition, in turn, triggers the immune response. The finding could help researchers tailor the adenovirus so that it causes less of an immune response in gene therapy applications and an enhanced immune response in vaccines.

"These results will help with future studies of innate immune responses to adenovirus," Wiethoff and colleagues wrote. "Additionally, our understanding of this process could allow us to either enhance or attenuate [weaken] the innate to adenovirus to generate novel vectors for gene therapy and vaccination."

Explore further: Modified vaccine shows promise in preventing malaria

Related Stories

Modified vaccine shows promise in preventing malaria

September 26, 2011
Continuing a global effort to prevent malaria infections, Michigan State University researchers have created a new malaria vaccine – one that combines the use of a disabled cold virus with an immune system-stimulating ...

Recommended for you

Low-salt and heart-healthy dash diet as effective as drugs for some adults with high blood pressure

November 22, 2017
A study of more than 400 adults with prehypertension, or stage 1 high blood pressure, found that combining a low-salt diet with the heart-healthy DASH diet substantially lowers systolic blood pressure—the top number in ...

Stroke patients may have more time to get treatment, study finds

November 22, 2017
Patients and doctors long have relied on a simple rule of thumb for seeking care after an ischemic stroke: "Time is brain."

Cases of heart failure continue to rise; poorest people worst affected

November 22, 2017
The number of people being diagnosed with heart failure in the UK continues to rise as a result of demographic changes common to many developed countries, new research by The George Institute for Global Health at the University ...

Some cancer therapies may provide a new way to treat high blood pressure

November 20, 2017
Drugs designed to halt cancer growth may offer a new way to control high blood pressure (hypertension), say Georgetown University Medical Center investigators. The finding could offer a real advance in hypertension treatment ...

Could this protein protect people against coronary artery disease?

November 17, 2017
The buildup of plaque in the heart's arteries is an unfortunate part of aging. But by studying the genetic makeup of people who maintain clear arteries into old age, researchers led by UNC's Jonathan Schisler, PhD, have identified ...

Raising 'good' cholesterol fails to protect against heart disease

November 16, 2017
Raising so-called 'good' cholesterol by blocking a key protein involved in its metabolism does not protect against heart disease or stroke, according to a large genetic study of 150,000 Chinese adults published in the journal ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.