Describe the role of viruses in gene therapy.

Expert Answers
ophelious eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gene therapy involving viruses relies on the viruses' ability to hijack cells.  The virus acts like a revolutionary group that takes over the machinery of the cell and starts producing copies of itself with it.  It does this by "injecting" its own blueprints into the "factory" of the cell to crank out copies of itself.

Gene therapy takes advantage of this ability and uses the viruses' ability to inject therapeutic genes information into the cell.  This works best when used against some kind of disease that is the result of a single genetic malfunction, such as cystic fibrosis.

In a best case scenario, the virus will inject into the cell the correct gene, which will then be replicated (rather than the cell replicating the abnormal gene it had before.)  In time, and via medical magic, the correct gene can supplant the malfunctioning gene.

It's not a perfect system, yet.  The body, by nature, does not like viruses and seeks to destroy them.  The viruses also have to be carefully constructed or else they will mutate, cause illness, or target the wrong type of cell (if applicable.)

Overall, viruses present a unique and exciting avenue for scientists to explore when combating genetically caused diseases.

orchid101 | Student

 Human beings suffer from more than 5000 different diseases caused by single gene mutations, e.g., Cystic fibrosis, Acatalasia, Huntington,s chorea, Taysach,s disease etc. Gene therapy may be defined in broad general terms as follows: introduction of a normal functional gene into cells, which contain the defective allele of the concerned gene with the objective of correcting a genetic disorder.

Bacteriophages are viruses that attack bacteria. Several bacteriophages are used as cloning vectors, the most commonly used E.Coli phages being lambda and M13 phages. Phage vectors present two advantages over plasmid vectors, (1) they are more efficient than plasmids for cloning of large DNA fragments (2) it is easier to screen a large number of phage plaques than bacterial colonies for the identification of recombinant clones.