Self-Assembled Viruses

May 30, 2008

Viruses are true experts at importing genetic material into the cells of an infected organism. This trait is now being exploited for gene therapy, in which genes are brought into the cells of a patient to treat genetic diseases or genetic defects. Korean researchers have now made an artificial virus. As described in the journal Angewandte Chemie, they have been able to use it to transport both genes and drugs into the interior of cancer cells.

Natural viruses are extremely effective at transporting genes into cells for gene therapy; their disadvantage is that they can initiate an immune response or cause cancer. Artificial viruses do not have these side effects, but are not especially effective because their size and shape are very difficult to control—but crucial to their effectiveness. A research team headed by Myongsoo Lee has now developed a new strategy that allows the artificial viruses to maintain a defined form and size.

The researchers started with a ribbonlike protein structure (β-sheet) as their template. The protein ribbons organized themselves into a defined threadlike double layer that sets the shape and size. Coupled to the outside are “protein arms” that bind short RNA helices and embed them. If this RNA is made complementary to a specific gene sequence, it can very specifically block the reading of this gene. Known as small interfering RNAs (siRNA), these sequences represent a promising approach to gene therapy.

Glucose building blocks on the surfaces of the artificial viruses should improve binding of the artificial virus to the glucose transporters on the surfaces of the target cells. These transporters are present in nearly all mammalian cells. Tumor cells have an especially large number of these transporters.

Trials with a line of human cancer cells demonstrated that the artificial viruses very effectively transport an siRNA and block the target gene.

In addition, the researchers were able to attach hydrophobic (water repellant) molecules—for demonstration purposes a dye—to the artificial viruses. The dye was transported into the nuclei of tumor cells. This result is particularly interesting because the nucleus is the target for many important antitumor agents.

Citation: Myongsoo Lee, Filamentous Artificial Virus from a Self-Assembled Discrete Nanoribbon, Angewandte Chemie International Edition 2008, 47, No. 24, 4525–4528, doi: 10.1002/anie.200800266

Source: Wiley

Explore further: Novel technology vastly improves CRISPR/Cas9 accuracy

Related Stories

Novel technology vastly improves CRISPR/Cas9 accuracy

November 18, 2015

A new CRISPR/Cas9 technology developed by scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School is precise enough to surgically edit DNA at nearly any genomic location, while avoiding potentially harmful off-target ...

Imitating viruses to deliver drugs to cells

August 31, 2015

Viruses are able to redirect the functioning of cells in order to infect them. Inspired by their mode of action, scientists from the CNRS and Université de Strasbourg have designed a "chemical virus" that can cross the double ...

Viruses join fight against harmful bacteria

September 23, 2015

In the hunt for new ways to kill harmful bacteria, scientists have turned to a natural predator: viruses that infect bacteria. By tweaking the genomes of these viruses, known as bacteriophages, researchers hope to customize ...

What is life?

October 20, 2015

"Why would NASA want to study a lake in Canada?"

Recommended for you


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

4 / 5 (1) Jun 04, 2008
this stuff sound like playing with lego, perhaps soon enough it will appear to be just this easy.
not rated yet Jun 04, 2008
i am legend, anyone? lol

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.