Gene therapy involves introducing recombinant genetic material (DNA or RNA) directly into human cells or tissues to fight chronic diseases. Radiologist plays a key role in administering gene therapy.
Radiologist should have an understanding of basic techniques used for delivering genes into targeted cells, and monitoring their subsequent functions.
A major challenge in gene therapy is delivering genes to specific location. Currently there are two ways of delivering genes into the blood system: Through viral vectors or through liposomes. Viruses attach to particular cells deploy their contents into the cells, including any genes they might be carrying. But viruses might also attack the cells. Alternatively delivery of genes through liposome is commonly used to deliver genes.
Associate professor of radiology at Harvard medical school in Boston, Dr. Jonathan B. Krushal, M.D., and Ph.D said that there is whole new radiological specialty emerging in delivering and imaging genes. He further added that radiologist use image guidance for delivering genes to specific locations using ultrasound imaging techniques. Ultrasound also enhances the absorption of genes into malignant cells. In addition Radiologic monitoring during gene delivery limits the risks of inadequate targeting.
In the area of cancer research, studies are in progress on "suicide genes," which make a tumor more sensitive to radiation treatment and chemotherapy. An inactive drug becomes toxic only when it comes in contact with proteins produced by suicide genes are introduced into the tumor said Dr. Krushal. He further said that targeted delivery of genes to a specific location limits potential side effects from the toxicity of drugs.
Interventional radiologists are also studying ways to improve gene delivery to malignant cells and to monitor the functions of gene after successfully delivery.
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