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Researcher to Explore Use of Nanotechnology in Developing Gene Therapies

Published on December 27, 2011 at 2:11 AM

By Cameron Chai

Laura Conforti, who serves as an Associate Professor at the University of Cincinnati, has been awarded two grants to study the defects in the immune system function, paving the way for developing gene therapies to prevent the growth of tumor and for systemic lupus erythematosus.

Both the studies are being conducted in the labs of Laura Conforti. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has awarded a $395,000 grant to Conforti for over two years to study the use of nanotechnology in delivering gene therapies in patients suffering from autoimmune diseases, especially systemic lupus, which causes multiple organ damage.

Conforti’s research team has discovered a fault in the activities of some proteins or ion channels that manipulate the immune cell functionality, resulting in the hyperactivity of T-lymphocytes or T cells in patients having systemic lupus. T cells, which are white blood cells, are vital in the immune response of a human body.

Earlier research has demonstrated the faults in the response to foreign molecules or antigens that activate the immune system in the patients suffering from lupus. High calcium signaling is an indication of these defects. In this research, Conforti utilizes a novel nanotechnology to form nano liposomes or bubbles to deliver immunosuppressive therapies or therapeutic agents into the body to attack the ion channel that creates defects in calcium signaling and the development of the disease. These liposomes will be synthesized in such a manner that they can target only particular T cells that are causing the disease, while leaving other immune cells required for battling infections unaffected.

The National Institutes of Health has awarded its R01 renewal grant worth $1.2 million to Conforti to explore the development of tumors caused by low levels of oxygen. Conforti stated that her team discovered that low oxygen levels in the tumors called as hypoxia inhibits the ion channels and eventually the T cells’ anti-cancer activity. In this research, the team is exploring the mechanism of hypoxia in suppressing the levels of ion channels and the functionality of T cells to control and sustain the functionality of T cells to prevent tumor growth, she added.

Source: http://www.uc.edu

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