Hepatitis E Virus Shell Proteins May Be Used to Carry Vaccines & Drugs into Body

University of California (UC) Davis researchers have developed a way to use the empty shell of a hepatitis E virus to carry vaccines or drugs into the body. The technique has been tested in rodents as a way to target breast cancer, and is available for commercial licensing through the UC Davis Office of Research. Hepatitis E virus is feco-orally transmitted, so it can survive passage through the digestive system, said Marie Stark, a graduate student working with Professor Holland Cheng in the UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. Dr. Cheng, Ms. Stark, and colleagues prepared virus-like particles based on hepatitis E proteins. The particles do not contain any virus DNA, so they cannot multiply and spread and cause infections. Such particles could be used as vaccines that are delivered through food or drink. The idea is that you would drink the vaccine, and after passage through the stomach the virus-like particles would be absorbed in the intestine and deliver vaccines to the body. But the particles could also be used to attack cancer. Ms. Stark and Dr. Cheng did some tinkering with the proteins, so that they carry sticky cysteine amino acids on the outside. They could then chemically link other molecules to these cysteine groups. The scientists worked with a molecule called LXY-30, developed by researchers at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, which is known to stick to breast cancer cells. By using a fluorescent marker, they could show that virus-like particles carrying LXY-30 could home in on breast cancer cells both in a laboratory dish and in a mouse model of breast cancer. Results of the study have been published online in the journal Nanomedicine. Information on licensing the technology can be found at: https://techtransfer.universityofcalifornia.edu/NCD/24218.html. IMAGE
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