Viruses have evolved as optimally adapted particles to enter cells and transfer their genetic material. We are engineering the surface of enveloped and non-enveloped virus particles to improve their applicability in biotechnology and molecular medicine. In particular we are aiming at the generation of improved viral gene transfer vectors and vaccines for the treatment of malignant tumours and neurodegenerative diseases. As delivery and display vehicle we are using retroviruses and adenovirus-associated viruses (AAV) for gene delivery and measles virus to destroy tumor cells. A particular field of interest in gene delivery refers to the precise transfer of genes to specific cell types defined by cell surface markers. Accordingly, we use the surface of retroviruses and AAVs as scaffold to display high affinity targeting ligands that mediate vector particle binding to the surface marker of choice followed by particle entry and gene delivery. Towards targeted intracerebral gene delivery we aim at generating vectors that deliver genes exclusively to subtypes of interneurons as novel tool for optogenetics.
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