A $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will go towards the development of new gene therapy methods for acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) patients.
Dr David Dean’s project will focus on gene therapy, which aims to deliver a DNA product to alveoli cells’ nuclei and influence their behavior, namely by promoting the lung cells to release accumulated extra water. This strategy has the potential to restore and improve lung function. In order for DNA compounds to enter cells, it is necessary to “break” through the cell walls, one of the protective barriers that stop foreign harmful pathogens from getting in.
The researchers aim to use a technique called electroporation, which delivers a shock of electricity that causes the cells in that area to open and receive the compound. However, this experimental technique has not been thoroughly explored in the field of gene therapy targeting chest and lung areas. The grant from the National Institutes of Health will also help Dean’s team further investigate the efficacy and safety of electroporation as a DNA delivery method.
“Our research has generated very encouraging results thus far,” said Dean, professor of pediatrics and neonatology. “If it continues to show promise, our next step will be a clinical trial.”