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: Liquid helium offers a fascinating new way to make charged molecules

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NBCUniversal settles with unpaid interns for $6.4M

38 minutes ago

NBCUniversal will pay $6.4 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought by unpaid interns who worked on "Saturday Night Live" and other shows who claim they are owed wages, according to court documents.

Team infuses science into 'Minecraft' modification

50 minutes ago

The 3-D world of the popular "Minecraft" video game just became more entertaining, perilous and educational, thanks to a comprehensive code modification kit, "Polycraft World," created by University of Texas at Dallas professors, ...

States ascend into the cloud

1 hour ago

Seven years ago, the state of Delaware started moving computer servers out of closets and from under workers' desks to create a consolidated data center and a virtual computing climate.

Recommended for you

Amino acids key to new gold leaching process

Oct 24, 2014

Curtin University scientists have developed a gold and copper extraction process using an amino acid–hydrogen peroxide system, which could provide an environmentally friendly and cheaper alternative to ...

Researchers create designer 'barrel' proteins

Oct 23, 2014

Proteins are long linear molecules that fold up to form well-defined 3D shapes. These 3D molecular architectures are essential for biological functions such as the elasticity of skin, the digestion of food, ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

zevkirsh
4 / 5 (1) Jun 04, 2008
this stuff sound like playing with lego, perhaps soon enough it will appear to be just this easy.
makotech222
not rated yet Jun 04, 2008
i am legend, anyone? lol