body’s own defences could be programmed
to attack disease to order if two Leeds scientists
succeed in proving their innovative theory.
Cook and Erica de Wynter (left) of
molecular medicine have secured £125,000
to investigate the unique way antibody genes
are assembled and how they can be harnessed
to fight disease.
don’t often get funding for research
where there is no preliminary data or background
information but the pair have been funded
by the Wellcome Trust’s Showcase scheme
to research new ways to repair damaged immune
research into ‘flipping genes therapy’
met the Trust’s criterion of being ‘speculative,
novel, adventurous, innovative’.
Cook said antibodies can be made to respond
to every kind of pathogen. “Antibodies
are created by taking bits of genes and reassembling
them into different combinations, like a giant
Lego set. If we can understand the mechanism
by which genes are ‘flipped’ in
this way, we can insert genes for the body
to naturally rearrange, delivering treatments
directly to the immune system.”
their idea works, it could open the door to
new therapies for treating immune-deficiency
disorders and even provide a treatment for
cancers of the immune system, by adding genes
to make the cancerous cells die.
benefit of this kind of treatment is that
it would use the cell’s natural mechanism
to help fight disease,” said Dr de Wynter.
“Our body uses this system to produce
diversity, an insurance system against the
ever changing pathogens it has to fight. Our
problem is we want to specify the mechanism
to create just one antibody, and while we
believe it can work, we’ve now got to
prove it. We think we can prove our idea is
possible in the next two years.”