Genetically modified virus

Genetically modified virus

A genetically modified virus is a virus that has gone through genetic modification for various biomedical purposes.


  • General usage 1
  • Lithium-ion batteries 2
  • Gene therapy 3
  • Heart pacemaker 4
  • Cancer treatment 5
  • Rabbits 6
  • GMO lentivirus 7
  • References 8

General usage

Genetic modification involves the insertion or deletion of genes. When genes are inserted, they usually come from different species, which is a form of horizontal gene transfer. In nature this can occur when exogenous DNA penetrates the cell membrane for any reason but usually for domination of other diseases.

To do this artificially may require attaching the genes to a virus or just physically inserting the extra DNA into the nucleus of the intended host with a very small syringe, or with very small particles fired from a gene gun.[1] However, other methods exploit natural forms of gene transfer, such as the ability of Agrobacterium to transfer genetic material to plants,[2] or the ability of lentiviruses to transfer genes to animal cells.[3]

Lithium-ion batteries

In materials science, a genetically modified virus has been used to construct a more environmentally friendly lithium-ion battery.[4][5]

Gene therapy

Gene therapy[6] uses genetically modified viruses to deliver genes that can cure disease into human cells. Although gene therapy is still relatively new, it has had some successes. It has been used to treat genetic disorders such as severe combined immunodeficiency.[7]

Heart pacemaker

In 2012, US researchers reported that they injected a genetically modified virus into the heart of guinea pigs. This virus inserted into the heart muscles a gene called Tbx18 which enabled heartbeats. The researchers forecast that one day this technique could be used to restore the heartbeat in humans who would otherwise need electronic pacemakers.[8][9]

Cancer treatment

In 2004, researchers reported that a genetically modified virus that exploits the selfish behaviour of cancer cells might offer an alternative way of killing tumours.[10][11][12] Since then, several researchers have developed genetically modified oncolytic viruses that show promise as treatments for various types of cancer[13] [14] [15][16][17]


In Spain and Portugal, by 2005 rabbits had declined by as much as 95% over 50 years due diseases such as myxomatosis, rabbit haemorrhagic disease and other causes. This in turn caused declines in predators like the Iberian lynx, a critically endagered species.[18][19] In 2000 Spanish researchers investigated a genetically modified virus which might have protected rabbits in the wild against myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease.[20] However there was concern that such a virus might make its way into wild populations in areas such as Australia and create a population boom.[18][21] Rabbits in Australia are considered to be such a pest that land owners are legally obliged to control them.[22]

GMO lentivirus

A scientist claims she was infected by a genetically modified virus while working for Pfizer. In her federal lawsuit she says she has been intermittently paralyzed by the Pfizer-designed virus. "McClain, of Deep River, suspects she was inadvertently exposed, through work by a former Pfizer colleague in 2002 or 2003, to an engineered form of the lentivirus, a virus similar to the one that can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS."[23] The court found that McClain failed to demonstrate that her illness was caused by exposure to the lentivirus,[24] but also that Pfizer violated whistleblower laws.[25]


  1. ^ Johnston SA, Tang DC (1994). "Gene gun transfection of animal cells and genetic immunization". Methods in Cell Biology. 43 Pt A: 353–365.  
  2. ^ Lee LY, Gelvin SB (February 2008). "T-DNA binary vectors and systems". Plant Physiol. 146 (2): 325–332.  
  3. ^ Park F (October 2007). "Lentiviral vectors: are they the future of animal transgenesis?". Physiol. Genomics 31 (2): 159–173.  
  4. ^ New virus-built battery could power cars, electronic devices
  5. ^ Hidden Ingredient In New, Greener Battery: A Virus
  6. ^ Selkirk SM (October 2004). "Gene therapy in clinical medicine". Postgrad Med J 80 (948): 560–70.  
  7. ^ Cavazzana-Calvo M, Fischer A (June 2007). "Gene therapy for severe combined immunodeficiency: are we there yet?". J. Clin. Invest. 117 (6): 1456–65.  
  8. ^ Gallagher, James (16 December 2012) Virus rebuilds heart's own pacemaker in animal tests BBC News Health, Retrieved 5 January 2013
  9. ^ Kapoor, N.; Liang, W.; Marbán, E.; Cho, H. C. (2012). "Direct conversion of quiescent cardiomyocytes to pacemaker cells by expression of Tbx18". Nature Biotechnology.  
  10. ^ Genetically-modified virus explodes cancer cells
  11. ^ GM virus shrinks cancer tumours in humans
  12. ^ Could a GM virus beat prostate cancer?
  13. ^ Leja, J.; Yu, D.; Nilsson, B.; Gedda, L.; Zieba, A.; Hakkarainen, T.; Åkerström, G.; Öberg, K.; Giandomenico, V.; Essand, M. (2011). "Oncolytic adenovirus modified with somatostatin motifs for selective infection of neuroendocrine tumor cells". Gene Therapy 18 (11): 1052–1062.  
  14. ^ Perett, Linda (30 June 2011) Measles viruses genetically modified to treat ovarian cancer National Cancer Institute, Benchmarks, Retrieved 5 September 2012
  15. ^ Breitbach, CJ; Thorne, SH; Bell, JC; Kirn, DH (2011). "Targeted and Armed Oncolytic Poxviruses for Cancer: The Lead Example of JX-594". Current pharmaceutical biotechnology.  
  16. ^ Beasley, Deena (31 August 2011) Cancer-fighting virus shown to target tumors alone Reuters Science, Retrieved 5 September 2012
  17. ^ Garber, K. (2006). "China Approves World's First Oncolytic Virus Therapy for Cancer Treatment". JNCI Journal of the National Cancer Institute 98 (5): 298–300.  
  18. ^ a b Ward, Dan (2005)Reversing Rabbit Decline One of the biggest challenges for nature conservation in Spain and Portugal University of Alberta, Canada, Retrieved 30 August 2012
  19. ^ Ward, Dan (December 2008). "LynxBrief". Retrieved August 2012. 
  20. ^ Bárcena, J.; Morales, M.; Vázquez, B.; Boga, J. A.; Parra, F.; Lucientes, J.; Pagès-Manté, A.; Sánchez-Vizcaíno, J. M.; Blasco, R.; Torres, J. M. (2000). "Horizontal transmissible protection against myxomatosis and rabbit hemorrhagic disease by using a recombinant myxoma virus". Journal of virology 74 (3): 1114–1123.  
  21. ^ Angulo, E.; Gilna, B. (2008). "When biotech crosses borders". Nature Biotechnology 26 (3): 277–282.  
  22. ^ Catalyst: GM Virus - ABC TV Science
  23. ^ "Ex-Pfizer Worker Cites Genetically Engineered Virus In Lawsuit Over Firing". March 14, 2010. Retrieved July 11, 2011. 
  24. ^ "McClain v. PFIZER, INC., 692 F. Supp. 2d 229". Retrieved September 13, 2012. 
  25. ^ "A Pfizer Whistle-Blower Is Awarded $1.4 Million".