Using a homemade, high-tech microscope, Drs. Mitch Smith, Dean Kedes and Margret Grant and Laboratory technicians Aiola Stoja and Matt Loftus in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have revealed how a cancer-causing virus anchors itself to our DNA. That discovery could pave the way for doctors to cure previously incurable diseases by flushing out viruses, including HPV and Epstein-Barr, that now permanently embed themselves in our cells.
“The reason we can’t get rid of these [viruses] is because we can’t figure out a way to get their DNA out of the nucleus, out of the cell,” UVA researcher Dr. Dean H. Kedes said. “They depend on this ‘tether’ to remain anchored to the DNA within our cells, and to remain attached even as the cells divide. This tether is a key factor to disrupt in devising a cure.”
Now that scientists can understand this vital infrastructure, they can work to disassemble it. “Without it,” Kedes noted, “the virus is going to lose its hold in the body. … Bad for the virus, but very good for the patient.” [more detail on this research in UVA Today]