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New Way to "See" Genes, Evaluate Effectiveness of Gene Therapies Discovered ,,

This technology essentially renders the body transparent and will allow physicians to determine whether gene therapies reach targeted cells and work as they should.

"The technology is expected to help patients with cancer and other illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease. The discovery is outlined in the August 2000, issue of the journal Nature Medicine. UCLA researchers plan to test the tracking system in prostate cancer patients within a year, and are working with researchers at other institutions to help them evaluate other gene therapy studies for cancer patients.

The tracking system consists of "reporter" genes that can be attached to any gene therapy and used to monitor the therapy's behavior. After the reporter genes and gene therapy are paired and infused into a patient, the patient receives an injection of a special radioactive molecule. The reporter genes produce a protein that traps the radioactive molecules, and the radioactivity causes the regions of the body in which the reporter gene is present to glow "hot" during a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. This will allow physicians to locate the reporter genes paired with the gene therapy and establish a picture of the treatment at work.

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