At the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, researchers have developed a new gene therapy to thwart a potential influenza pandemic in mice.
Specifically, investigators in the Gene Therapy Program, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, directed by James M. Wilson, MD, PhD, demonstrated that a single dose of an adeno-associated virus (AAV) expressing a broadly neutralizing flu antibody into the nasal passages of mice and ferrets gives them complete protection and substantial reductions in flu replication when exposed to lethal strains of H5N1 and H1N1 flu virus.
These strains were isolated from samples associated from historic human pandemics - one from the infamous 1918 flu pandemic and another from 2009.
In addition to the Penn scientists, the international effort included colleagues from the Public Health Agency of Canada, Winnipeg; the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg; and the University of Pittsburgh. Tretiakova is also the director of translational research, and Limberis is the director of animal models core, both with the Gene Therapy Program
"The experiments described in our paper provide critical proof-of-concept in animals about a technology platform that can be deployed in the setting of virtually any pandemic or biological attack for which a neutralizing antibody exists or can be easily isolated," Wilson said.
"Further development of this approach for pandemic flu has taken on more urgency in light of the spreading infection in China of the lethal bird strain of H7N9 virus in humans," he said.
The findings are published online in Science Translational Medicine.