Professor KIM Jin-soo at Dept. of Chemistry has developed a new gene-engineering method that may help treat acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) patients.
Kim has used a "genetic scissor" called "zinc finger nucleases" to precisely remove human chemokine receptor 5 (CCR5) that acts as a conduit for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
CCR5 is found in the outer barrier of immune cells of most people, but it also helps HIV to infect the body's natural defense system.
If the immune system is infected with the virus, it can lead to AIDS and death. The number of AIDS patients worldwide is estimated at 30 million, with 2 million people succumbing to the disease every year.
Professor Kim said that removing CCR5 does not lead to any health complications since there are people who naturally do not have this gene. Such people are effectively immune to AIDS.
"The treatment process requires the extraction of bone marrow from an AIDS patient, and after genetically removing the CCR5, re-injecting the marrow back into the patient that will bring about the healing process," Kim said.
He said that advances in the zinc finger nucleases process have made it possible to remove genomic DNA segments with considerable precision.
"Such developments are expected to change gene treatment," the scientist said.
The discovery has been published in the latest Internet issue of the U.S.-based Genome Research journal.
Jan. 6, 2009
SNU PR Office