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Gene therapy method proves evolution works

Narrator:       This is Science Today. There are only three problems in gene therapy: delivery, delivery and delivery. That's an old joke in the field, according to University of California, Berkeley researcher Dave Schaffer, who directs the Berkeley Stem Cell Center.

Schaffer:        So, our group over the past 12 to 13 years at Berkley has really been trying to work hard on improving the process of delivering therapeutic genes to a patient's cells so that we can really get up to therapeutic levels of gene delivery and cure diseases. 

Narrator:       In fact, Schaffer recently engineered a virus to deliver corrective genes to damaged eye cells — a process that involved his team creating over 100 million variants of the virus to ensure that they evolved one that was best suited for gene therapy.

Schaffer:        The biggest surprise, which perhaps shouldn't have been a surprise, is that evolution works.  Meaning that every single time we try to apply this approach, this directed evolution of the virus to treat or to overcome a new problem with gene delivery, it's worked almost better than what we'd hoped for. 

Narrator:       For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.