deadly viruses, the ones that cause Ebola and AIDS, could actually
help cure a devastating and deadly genetic disease.
(CF) is caused by a single faulty gene. Researchers believe that
by replacing the faulty gene, the disease could be cured. But how
do you get the good gene in to replace the bad one? You need
a super efficient delivery system -- a virus. Viruses are expert
invaders, attaching themselves to cells and injecting their own
genetic material into a cell. Researchers often use viruses as the
"carriers" in gene therapy experiments. (See .)
In this case,
researchers believe the characteristics that make Ebola and HIV
so strong, will also make them the perfect carriers for a CF cure.
The Ebola virus naturally targets lung cells, the same cells attacked
by cystic fibrosis. HIV has longterm staying power, which would
keep it in place to keep delivering the healthy gene.
One major hurdle
in this approach is, of course, stripping the viruses of any genetic
material that would cause Ebola or AIDS. That's why researchers
don't know if the experiment will ever be tried in humans. But the
approach and research into using the virus characteristics could
bring us much closer to a cure for CF.