PARIS - Researchers at the Institut Curie and Institut Pasteur have developed and patented a gene transfer technique for delivering modified genes in a highly targeted way.

The technique was tested in mice infected with colorectal cancer and was applied to the DNA sequence coding for villin, a protein specific to epithelial kidney and intestinal cells.

It involves use of non-differentiated embryonic stem cells and exploits the DNA repair process by introducing a break (I-SceI) at a specific locus on the genome in order to stimulate the repair process at that particular place.

In other words, unlike conventional gene replacement methods that do not offer the possibility of choosing the place where the transgene is introduced, this technique enables the gene to be targeted at the desired spot and is highly efficient in getting it there.

“The great advantage of this method is its effectiveness in targeting,“ Charles Babinet of the Pasteur Institute, in Paris, told BioWorld International.

Although developed within the framework of a cancer therapy, the method potentially has much broader applications.

“The technique is not limited to either a particular gene or a particular pathology,“ Babinet said. “We tried to formulate the patent application so that it would cover a maximum.“

Further development of the technique at the Institut Curie, also in Paris, will continue to focus on cancer, but other organizations will be able to license it for different applications. - James Etheridge