Gene therapy talk by Wits prof

2010-04-12 00:00

PATRICK Arbuthnot, professor and director of the Antiviral Gene Therapy Research Unit at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg will give the Royal Society of South Africa lecture titled “The considerable potential of gene therapy” this Wednesday on the local varsity campus.

Arbuthnot worked as a post doctoral researcher at Necker Hospital in Paris, and carried out work on developing gene therapy for treating liver cancer and hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. On returning to South Africa he joined the Wits Molecular Medicine and Haematology Department and was also involved in clinical work at the Charlotte Maxeke and Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospitals.

In 1953 James Watson and Francis Crick revealed insights into gene structure and this led to investigating the possibilities of gene modification. Since genes are central to all biological processes, controlled alteration of gene function, which is gene therapy, has potential for developing new methods of disease treatment. The approach may involve the repairing of damaged genes (e.g. inherited diseases) or silencing ‘rogue’ genetic elements (e.g. of cancers) to restore the health of cells. Gene therapy is rapidly becoming part of mainstream research. It is expected new solutions to overcoming serious infectious diseases relevant to South Africa will emerge from harnessing gene therapy techniques.

Arbtuhtnot’s lecture is at 5.30pm for 5.45pm at the John Bews Lecture Theatre, Life Sciences Campus at the end of Carbis Road, Scottsville. Inquiries: Edith Elliott 033 260 5455.

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