Gene therapy to get a boost with genetically engineered spider silk

A new study has suggested that genetically engineered spider silk might boost the therapeutic usage of genes in everyday medicine.

David Kaplan and colleagues found that the use of beneficial genes to prevent or treat disease in the therapy requires safe and efficient carriers or ‘vectors’, which are counterparts to pills and capsules, transporting therapeutic genes into the diseased cells of the body.

They found that silk proteins could be a promising prospect in the therapy, as these are biocompatible and have been used in everyday medicine and medical research for decades.

The scientists discussed about modifying the spider silk proteins so that they only attach to the diseased cells and not the healthy ones.

They also engineered the silk to contain a gene that codes for the protein, which in turn makes fireflies glow as a visual signal whenever the gene reaches its intended target.

Experimenting with mice containing human breast cancer cells, the researchers attached spider-silk proteins to the affected cells and injected the DNA material into them without harming the mice.

The results showed that the genetically-engineered spider-silk proteins represent ‘a versatile and useful new platform polymer for nonviral gene delivery’.

The study appeared in ACS” journal Bioconjugate Chemistry.

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