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Gene therapy is the insertion, alteration, or removal of genes or gene particles within an individual’s cells and biological tissues to treat disease. It is an experimental technique that may eventually allow doctors to treat a disorder by inserting a gene into a patient’s cells instead of using drugs or surgery.
Dr. Robert Delong, assistant professor of biomedical sciences, is the lead investigator of a Missouri State University study that is investigating ways that gene therapy could be used to treat cancer.
Delong said gene therapy has two primary barriers – getting the gene particles into a cell and keeping the cell from attacking the gene.
His research team at Missouri State includes Dr. Kartik Ghosh, Dr. Adam Wanekaya, and Dr. Richard Garrad and a group of undergraduate researchers. The team is investigating how nano-materials can be used to gain access to the cell and protect the gene segment.
Delong said current cancer treatments rely on chemotherapy, which has a very nonspecific way that it attacks cancer cells, therefore, other cells are also damaged, which causes people to get very sick from the treatment.
Missouri State’s specific area of inquiry is in how to use naturally occurring elements to deliver the treatment.