February 7, 2006
Viruses can be forced to evolve in ways beneficial to humans, according to new research by David Schaffer, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at UC Berkeley and member of the Bioengineering Graduate Group.
The adeno-associated virus, or AAV, is a common and innocuous resident of the body that has been identified as a possible carrier for genes in gene therapy. However, because as many as 90 percent of people already have the virus, their immune systems are primed with antibodies to quickly tackle and neutralize it, thwarting any attempt at gene therapy.
Schaffer and his colleagues managed to speed up the process of viral evolution and direct the change in a way that would allow the virus to slip past the body’s immune defenses, making it a more viable vehicle for gene therapy. Although this process of directed evolution has been commonly used to improve enzymes, it was a new approach for viruses. Their work was published in the February 2006 issue of Nature Biotechnology.
Read more of the story at the UC Berkeley News Center.