Gene Therapy Might Grow Replacement Tissue Inside the Body
By combining a synthetic scaffolding material with gene delivery techniques, researchers at Duke University are getting closer to being able to generate replacement cartilage where it’s needed in the body.
Performing tissue repair with stem cells typically requires applying copious amounts of growth factor proteins—a task that is very expensive and becomes challenging once the developing material is implanted within a body. In a new study, however, Duke researchers found a way around this limitation by genetically altering the stem cells to make the necessary growth factors all on their own.
They incorporated viruses used to deliver gene therapy to the stem cells into a synthetic material that serves as a template for tissue growth. The resulting material is like a computer; the scaffold provides the hardware and the virus provides the software that programs the stem cells to produce the desired tissue.
The study appears online the week of Feb. 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.