Viral vectors that are tailored for the specific delivery of genes to a variety of human and mouse cell types are reported in a study published this week in Nature Methods. This technology enables specific gene transfer into target cells in a live animal.
Genetic modification of cells is generally achieved using viral vectors such as lentiviruses. These viruses stably integrate the gene of interest into the chromosomes of dividing as well as nondividing cells. Current state-of-the-art lentiviral vectors are equipped with a specific protein that mediates nonselective entry into all types of mouse, rat and human cells. Very often though, the delivery to specific cell types is desired, and viruses can be engineered to selectively enter only specific cells.
Christian Buchholz and colleagues generated such cell-specific lentiviral vectors by modifying a protein on the surface of the virus with antibodies that recognize only specific surface proteins present on target cells. These engineered lentiviruses selectively infect human endothelial cells, cells that line the interior of blood vessels, human blood-cell progenitors and mouse neurons that express specific glutamate receptors which are important for brain physiology.