Sep. 22, 1999 Philadelphia -- Scientists in the Wistar Institute laboratory of Roger M. Burnett, PhD., working in collaboration with scientists from the Department of Biosciences and Institute of Biotechnology at the University of Helsinki, Finland, have determined that the bacterial virus, PRD1, is strikingly similar, both biologically and architecturally, to adenovirus, a human virus commonly used as a transport system in gene therapy.
Specific details of this research appear the paper, "Viral evolution revealed by PRD1 and human adenovirus coat protein structures," published in the September 17, 1999 issue of the scientific journal, Cell.
Resemblances between these two double-stranded DNA viruses, which infect very different hosts, suggest an evolutionary relationship not previously observed. "We are very excited by this finding," explained Dr. Burnett, "since new research areas, including therapies, are always likely to open up when such parallels between different infective organisms are found."
According to Wistar graduate student, Stacy D. Benson, "this finding reinforces the similarities between different biological systems. In fact, we suspect that this same architecture will also be found in viruses that infect plants and simpler animals."
PRD1, discovered in the 1970s in the sewers of Kalamazoo, Michigan, infects bacteria found in the human digestive system. Because PRD1 is very small, 1/100th the width of a hair, various cross-disciplinary scientific tools, including electron microscopy and X-ray crystallography, were used to make detailed images of the virus.
Research on these structures was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the National Cancer Institute, the Fannie E. Rippel Foundation, the Technology Development Center of Finland and the Finnish Academy of Sciences.
The Wistar Institute, established in 1892, was the first independent medical research facility in the country. For more than 100 years, Wistar scientists have been making history and improving world health through their development of vaccines for diseases that include rabies, German measles, infantile gastroenteritis (rotavirus), and cytomegalovirus; discovery of molecules like interleukin-12, which are helping the immune system fight bacteria, parasites, viruses and cancer; and location of genes that contribute to the development of diseases like breast, lung and prostate cancer. Wistar is a National Cancer Institute Cancer Center.
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