July 21, 2009

Cold virus used in cystic fibrosis study

Using a common cold virus to deliver a corrected gene to cystic fibrosis cells restores normal function to lung tissue, researchers in North Carolina said.

The treatment is the most efficient gene therapy for cystic fibrosis to be found in the last 20 years, researchers at the University of North Carolina said Tuesday in a release.

The next step is to ensure the safety of the delivery system so it can be administered to cystic fibrosis patients, who suffer from thicker-than-normal mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening infections, said lead researcher Ray Pickles, calling the discovery a giant leap forward.

The common cold virus evolved to infect human airways. Using that virus to transmit corrected genes improved the ability of lung cells to hydrate and transport mucus secretions, Pickles and his team wrote in the July 21 issue PLoS Biology, the journal of the Public Library of Science.