By cracking the mystery of an unusual virus that survives in super-hot environments, scientists at the University of Virginia have discovered an outline for battling disease using genetic therapy.
“What’s interesting and unusual is being able to see how proteins and DNA can be put together in a way that’s absolutely stable under the harshest conditions imaginable,” revealed by Edward H. Egelman, PhD, of the UVA Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, in a press release.
“We’ve discovered what appears to be a basic mechanism of resistance – to heat, to desiccation, to ultraviolet radiation. And knowing that, then, we can go in many different directions, including developing ways to package DNA for gene therapy.”
The virus, SIRV2, contaminates a microscopic organism known as Sulfolobus islandicus that lives in an extremely unusual condition: acidic hot springs where temperatures top 175 degrees Fahrenheit. The research spotted similarities between the SIRV2 virus and the spores bacteria form to survive in inhospitable environments, including the way that SIRV2 forces itself into an A-form, which permits it to guard its DNA. The defense of its DNA is vital to fight disease because the human body has several ways to degrade DNA in invading viruses and bacteria, which denotes that scientists may have discovered a way to overcome these protective systems in the body.
Achieving effective packaging for DNA delivery is imperative because the human body has many ways to degrade and remove foreign DNA that’s how it fights viruses. Nevertheless, that protective system becomes a major hindrance for doctors seeking to use genes to battle disease. Inventing an impenetrable packaging would overcome that crisis, and this strange virus offers a promising template.