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Showing posts from October, 2006

Membrane Fusion: from viruses to Gene Therapy and RNA Interference

The previous blogs have gotten into how synaptic vessicles fuse with the synapse membrane. Similar mechanisms are used by viruses to enter healthy cells, and are now being harnessed for the latest genetic medical treatments: Gene Therapy and RNA Interference. Some very cool stuff happening in this area.

Research into the HIV virus led to some of the first breakthroughs in understanding the membrane fusion mechanism. Retroviruses are particularly adept at invading a wide variety of different human cells, which makes them good models to study for gene therapy. Lifecycle of the virus provides a good intro to how viruses work. The HIV virus anchors itself to a special protein (CD4) on the surface of the helper T cell. This causes the viral membrane to fuse with the host cell's membrane. It's called a Lentivirus (Lenti is latin for "slow").

From the University of Birmingham:

HIV as a Lentiviral Vector in Gene Therapy
From Kenyon College's web site:
What is gene therapy?