Bacterial Injection System Delivers Proteins in Mice and Human Cells; New Work from Feng Zhang’s Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard Lab Described in Nature Article; With Further Development, the Programmable System Could Be Used in Range of Applications, Including Gene Therapy and Cancer Therapy

Dr. Feng Zhang
Researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT have harnessed a natural bacterial system to develop a new protein delivery approach that works in human cells and animals. The technology, described today on March 29, 2023 in Nature, can be programmed to deliver a variety of proteins, including ones for gene editing, to different cell types. The system could potentially be a safe and efficient way to deliver gene therapies and cancer therapies. The open-access Nature article is titled “Programmable Protein Delivery with a Bacterial Contractile Injection System.” Led by Broad core institute member and McGovern Institute investigator Feng Zhang (photo), PhD, the team took advantage of a tiny syringe-like injection structure, produced by a bacterium, that naturally binds to insect cells and injects a protein payload into them. The researchers used the artificial intelligence tool AlphaFold to engineer these syringe structures to deliver a range of useful proteins to both human cells and cells in live mice.
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