Viruses have been successfully painted by biologists from Austria and Singapore in an attempt to track their fate in the body.
The breakthrough reported online in The FASEB Journal may help improve the efficiency of some forms of gene therapy, track and treat viral disease and evolution, improve the efficiency of vaccines, and allow health care professionals track the movement of viral infections within the body.
A research article describing the new method says that it should make it easier to track and treat infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, influenza, hepatitis C, and dengue fever.
The article further states that this research may pave the way for new treatments for cancer, cardiovascular, metabolic and inherited disorders because viruses can help introduce biotechnology drugs and replacement genes, and act as vaccines.
"This technology should provide a new tool for the treatment of many diseases. Even if you are working with a virus that is unknown or poorly characterized, it is still possible to modify or paint it. This is very interesting for emerging diseases," said Brian Salmons, one of scientists who co-authored the study.
He revealed that the viruses remained infectious even with the new paint job.
Although the researchers involved just one type of protein and two types of viral vectors in their study, they said that the technique could be expanded and used to apply "paint" made up of other proteins, dyes, and a variety of unique markers.
"Biology and art converge daily: people paint their nails, color their hair, and tattoo their skin. Now this convergence has entered a new dimension as painted viruses permit scientists to track, cure and prevent disease," said Dr. Gerald Weissmann, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal.