UCL News


Disabled Aids virus could provide cure for cystic fibrosis

19 March 2007

A modified version of the virus that causes Aids could become the basis of a prenatal gene therapy for cystic fibrosis, new research has suggested.

The UCL team, led by Dr Suzy Buckley [UCL Haematology], has won a prize from the British Society for Gene Therapy, which will fund them to collaborate with a group in Australia that has developed a mouse model of cystic fibrosis.

They are now working on modifying HIV further so it can carry the genetic material needed to treat the disease.

Dr Simon Waddington, a colleague of Dr Buckley's at UCL, said it would be at least five years before the gene therapy could begin clinical trials. …

"Some genetic diseases kick in before birth, and if you're going to try to address these by gene therapy, it may already be too late to reverse some of the damage if you wait until a baby has been born," Dr Waddington said. …

The HIV vector is a profoundly disabled version of the virus, and its surface proteins have also been modified so that it primarily infects lung cells rather than the immune system cells that it usually targets.

Its surface proteins now resembled those of the flu virus, Dr Waddington said. …

Mark Henderson, 'The Times'