Tiny Tech #7: Viruses as Nanotechnology

Today from the world of Tiny Tech:

Feeling sick?  Although many illnesses are caused by microorganisms, other diseases such as cystic fibrosis and hemophilia are genetic disorders, caused by abnormalities in the DNA of our own chromosomes. 

Scientists are now studying the possibility that such genetic diseases could be cured by treating patients with a natural nano-machine:   an altered virus!  It may be possible to cure people using the same abilities that viruses use to make you sick – such as the ability to enter into cells and to replace the cell’s genes with its own.  By making specific changes in the virus’s protein shell, scientists can direct the virus to attack only the cells in your body that are malfunctioning.  And if the virus’s genes are replaced with genes that can fix the genetic disorder, then the virus will insert these repaired genes into the malfunctioning cells.  If the cells will use the new repaired gene, then the genetic disorder would be cured.  

So who knows, maybe the next time you are sick, catching a natural nanoparticle – a virus -- could be the cure!  That would be nothing to sneeze at.

Tiny Tech is made possible by the National Science Foundation and WUFT.  To learn more about Tiny Tech, go to tinytechradio.org.

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