Caffeine 'jazzes' engineered cells

Jan. 27, 2011 at 10:19 PM
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DALLAS, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say caffeine could help step up production of cells engineered to produce viruses in gene therapy.

Brian Ellis, Patrick Ryan Potts and Matthew Porteus of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas say caffeine could help step up production of lentiviral vectors for use in gene therapy.

The study, published in Human Gene Therapy suggests caffeine could be used to help generate three to eight times more virus.

Lentiviral vectors, used in the laboratory for basic studies in virology, have been shown to be good candidates to help in gene transfer -- putting genetic material into a cell to help cure a disease. Clinical trials for this use of lentiviral vectors have already begun, the researchers say.

"It is ironic that the ingredient in beverages like colas and coffees that helps keep us awake and alert is also useful in jazzing up cells to produce more gene therapy vectors," Dr. James M. Wilson, editor in chief and director of the gene therapy program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, says in a statement. "An increase in vector production of fivefold may prove critical in establishing the commercial viability of lentiviral based products."

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