Study could help improve gene therapy for heart disease, cancer

October 12, 2011, Loyola University Health System

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

'Smart stent' detects narrowing of arteries

June 19, 2018
For every three individuals who have had a stent implanted to keep clogged arteries open and prevent a heart attack, at least one will experience restenosis—the renewed narrowing of the artery due to plaque buildup or scarring—which ...

Marriage may protect against heart disease / stroke and associated risk of death

June 18, 2018
Marriage may protect against the development of heart disease/stroke as well as influencing who is more likely to die of it, suggests a pooled analysis of the available data, published online in the journal Heart.

Deaths from cardiac arrest are misclassified, overestimated

June 18, 2018
Forty percent of deaths attributed to cardiac arrest are not sudden or unexpected, and nearly half of the remainder are not arrhythmic—the only situation in which CPR and defibrillators are effective—according to an analysis ...

Tick-borne meat sensitivity linked to heart disease

June 15, 2018
University of Virginia School of Medicine researchers have linked sensitivity to an allergen in red meat—a sensitivity spread by tick bites—with a buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries of the heart. This buildup may ...

Tobacco aside, e-cigarette flavorings may harm blood vessels

June 14, 2018
Flavor additives used in electronic cigarettes and related tobacco products could impair blood vessel function and may be an early indicator of heart damage, according to new laboratory research in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis ...

The molecules that energize babies' hearts

June 14, 2018
A metabolic process that provides heart muscle with energy fails to mature in newborns with thickened heart walls, according to a Japan–Canada research team.

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.