Thursday, September 04, 2008

The tobacco virus nano-syringe

Scientists are using a modified tobacco virus to deliver delicate gene therapies into the heart of diseased cells, with the potential to treat most cancers, viruses and genetic disorders.

The tobacco mosaic virus, which plagues the plant but is harmless to humans, is hollowed out and filled with "small interfering RNA" molecules, or siRNA, which some scientists consider to be the most significant development in medicine since the discovery of vaccines.

The virus' tubular shell provides a safe way to slip the delicate siRNA drugs into cells, serving as both a protective coating and a Trojan horse.

"This tobacco mosaic virus is literally a nano-sized syringe," says William Bentley, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Maryland, who is leading the study of the virus.
Interesting news, but one quote smells fishy.
Bentley is optimistic that the virus will not cause health problems because most people already have traces of it in their blood -- from second-hand smoke -- and it does not seem to cause irritation or obvious immune-system problems.
Do they really? Have large numbers of humans been tested to see if they have this virus in their blood? Or is this just an example of a scientist accepting and promulgating something that "everyone knows is true"?

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