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Transcript of Viral Vectors
Viral vectors are a revolutionary concept used by molecular biologists which exploits the characteristic mechanism of Viral infections to deliver genetic material into cells.
The applications of Viral vectors are
multitudinous. The predominant ones are as follows:
Viral Vectors can be broadly classified into some categories on the basis of their nature and mechanism.
As is the norm with groundbreaking concepts, Viral Vectors have met with a few significant challenges. Research on Viral Vectors invariably centers on tackling these obstacles.
So Long and thanks for all the fish.
With the dawn of the 21st century came the advent of the biological revolution.
The flagship for this revolution is gene therapy.
Viral vectors are rapidly being established as the most promising strategy for gene therapy.
The DNA responsible for the lytic cycle of the virus is removed, and is replaced by a DNA the choosing of which is influenced by our requirements. This means that the virus cannot replicate and thereby destroy the cell.
Thus, the virus remains in its lysogenic cycle and does not replicate after injecting the required DNA. In a nutshell, the virus is being used to achieve our ends rather than its own.
Viruses have evolved specialized molecular mechanisms to efficiently transport their genomes inside the cells they infect. Delivery of genes by a virus is termed transduction and the infected cells are described as transduced.
What do we mean by Vector?
A vector is a DNA molecule used as a vehicle to artificially carry foreign genetic material into another cell, where it can be replicated and/or expressed.
This means that the concept of viral
vectors calls on the skills of entities who
have perfected the art of transduction
through evolution over millions of years.
Viral + Vector
Expert Pathogen working transportation logistics for us.
Gene therapy is a technique for correcting defective genes responsible for disease development.
Viruses expressing pathogen proteins are currently being developed as vaccines against these pathogens, based on the same rationale as DNA vaccines.
Retroviruses are viruses whose genetic
material is entirely composed of RNA.
After attaching themselves to the host
cell, they inject the RNA along with
certain enzymes to bring about the
desired change by producing a DNA
copy using the RNA molecule.
Retroviruses are at the forefront of
gene therapy research due their unique replicating abilities.
These are less commonly used due to their inability to pass on the extra gene whilst they undergo replication. This means that the vector will have to be readministered to the new cell in order to impart the desirable qualities.
These are viruses which affect humans and other primates but do not cause any disease. Thus they generate a very mild immune system response which makes them ideal for usage as vectors.
The immune system of the body considerably limits the choice of viral vectors. This is because most viral vectors are essentially modified viruses, and viruses are viewed by our immune system as foreign invaders.
Research into gene therapy is highly expensive with the technology and knowledge we possess today and progress is primarily hindered due to this reason.
Whether or not the viral vector succeeds in performing gene therapy upon the first attempt, it cannot be used a second time because by then the immune system will be familiar with the vector and will recognize it when it enters the body. This not only prevents multiple usage on one subject, but also rules out the possibility of using the same virus as a vehicle to treat a different disease.
There is yet another dimension to the expense of viral vectors. It is possible that even if treatment using viral vectors is successful, it may be too expensive for everyone to afford. This will only serve to widen the economic divide that plagues our society.
Thus gene therapy not only needs to be widely applicable, but also affordable.