Scientists generate flu virus through gene technology
|Scientists make influenza virus from cloned DNA. CNN's Dr. Steve Salvatore explains the implications.
August 2, 1999
Web posted at: 5:05 p.m. EDT (2105 GMT)
(CNN) -- Researchers have successfully created the influenza A virus entirely from genes.
The research, conducted at the University of Wisconsin, could help in understanding how flu strains mutate and spread, and may aid in the development of vaccines and gene therapies.
Findings reported in the August 3 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provide scientists with the knowledge to manipulate any gene in the virus's genetic profile.
"With this technology, we can introduce mutations any way we want," said virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka. "We can control the virulence by mutating here, there, anywhere. That could help us generate a live vaccine that is also stable."
Current flu vaccines are created from "killed" influenza virus. A "live" vaccine has the potential to be more effective. The research may also lead to the development of viruses to treat hepatitis or cancer.
"We can make influenza virus containing that kind of gene, and those viruses infect cancer cells, and cancer cells will die," Kawaoka said.
Scientists created the virus using plasmid biotechnology. Plasmids, used to transport genetic material from cell to cell, are segments of DNA that can replicate on their own.
The influenza virus has been difficult to generate due to complex genetic code. Until now, scientists could produced altered viruses, but not new ones.
Researchers are now working to generate the influenza B virus, another type of influenza that causes illness.
Influenza infects about 40 million people in the United States each year, killing about 20,000. The virus can easily develop into different strains, some more dangerous than others.
Medical Correspondent Dr. Steve Salvatore contributed to this report.
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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
University of Wisconsin, Madison
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
CDC: Influenza vaccine
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