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New Gene Therapy Gets Under the Skin

Posted: June 26, 2009

A new gene therapy technique, which can have an affect wrinkles and other anti-aging aspects of skin, has been introduced by researchers in Switzerland.

Petroleum jelly, a known molecule from apples and a gene network encapsulated in algal gelatin are the components of a possible gene therapy which literally gets under the skin.

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” This proverb now has a new meaning. Marc Gitzinger from the research group of Martin Fussenegger, professor of biotechnology and bioengineering science in the department of biosystems (D-BSSE) in Basle, Switzerland, has developed a prototype for gene therapy through the skin. An important part in this is played by phloretin, an antioxidant found in apples that makes cell walls more permeable and is used in cosmetics as an anti-wrinkle agent. The researchers have presented their new therapeutic approach online in the current edition of PNAS.

The method of administration sounds very simple: first implant a capsule with a particular gene under the skin and then apply skin cream in order to stimulate the gene into action, which finally expresses an active principle that is able to escape from the capsule in a precise dose.

Fussenegger’s group has managed to do something that sounds like science fiction. The researchers have produced alginate capsules with living cells containing a specially designed genetic network. This network produces the protein SEAP. The capsules were implanted under the skin of test mice, which were then coated with an ointment. This skin cream consists of commercial milk fat mixed with phloretin, according to a particular formula.