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Viruses Re-engineered to Do Good

Scientists at Stanford University recently repurposed viruses by removing their infectious machinery and turning them into vehicles for delivering therapies directly to cells. In their study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists found a way to add molecular tags to the viral structure, which would enable them to target the viruses, and hence anything they are carrying, to a specific cell type.

The researchers expanded upon previous work that was able to build the complex viral capsid structure of the Hepatitis B virus to extensively modify the viral particle so that it was undetectable by the immune system, strong enough to deliver its payload to its destination, and simple enough to have molecular tags attached to it. They did this by implementing an artificial disulfide structure, removing surface charges, and transplanting a new spike region. One of their goals is to be able to attach “vaccine-tags” to the spikes to enable the immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells and to attach “address-tags” to them to deliver drugs to specific cells.

Targeted drug therapy is a crucial milestone in the field of medicine and this research goes a long way in making that a reality.

Source: Stanford University

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