National Physical Laboratory

GeT-ting genes delivered

NPL scientists have mimicked the ways viruses infect human cells and deliver their genetic material. The research hopes to apply the approach to gene therapy - a therapeutic strategy to correct defective genes such as those that cause cancer.

Gene transporter (GeT) image
Confocal fluorescence micrograph of cells containing
a gene delivered by GeT, encoding for the synthesis
of green fluorescent protein

Gene therapy is still in its infancy, with obvious challenges around targeting damaged cells and creating corrective genes. An equally important challenge is finding ways to transport the corrective genes into cells. This is a problem, because of the poor permeability of cell membranes.

The research addresses this challenge by describing a model peptide sequence, dubbed GeT (gene transporter), which wraps around genes, transports them through cell membranes and helps their escape from intracellular degradation traps. The process mimics that which viruses use to infect human cells.

To prove the concept, the researchers used GeT to transfer a synthetic gene encoding for a green fluorescent protein that can be seen and monitored using fluorescence microscopy.

The design can serve as a potential template for non-viral gene delivery systems and future treatments of genetic disorders.

This research is part of the NPL-led international research project, 'Multiscale measurements in biophysical systems', which is jointly funded by NPL and the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance.=

Read the full article detailing this research published in Chemical Communications - the flagship journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry

More on NPL's work in Biotechnology

For more information, please contact Max Ryadnov

Last Updated: 3 May 2012
Created: 12 Aug 2011


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