Manipulating the Aging Process With Somatic Cell Gene Therapy

Free time over the holidays lead me to waste some time reading about aging, stem cells, and gene therapy.

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Age represents itself as a reduction in the ability of an organism to function and respond to its environment. This loss of function eventually causes the organism to die and cease existence. DNA damage is arguably the most significant cause of aging. This damage to DNA occurs over an organism's lifespan and is due to many factors such as oxygen free radicals which cause damage over time to proteins, membranes, and DNA. In humans this process does not produce a noticeable and negligible effect until after 20 or 30 years. The goal of this document is to theorize a method to replenish this loss or damage of DNA through the use of gene therapy. Studies have shown that the bone marrow of humans contain mesenchymal stem cells which are not subject to the same damage of DNA that most other cells in the body are susceptible to as time progresses. In choosing a vector for gene therapy it is important that the body's immune system will not render the vector ineffective. Due to this criteria the lentiviral HIV virus has been chosen as a viable gene therapy vector. By modifying the HIV virus to contain intact stem cell DNA the virus will infect host cells in the body and methodically repair the host cell's copies of damaged DNA.

Written on December 23, 2007