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Harmless virus gains momentum in gene therapy field

Narrator:       This is Science Today. When researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, recently made headlines by creating an easier and more effective method for inserting genes into eye cells to restore sight, the adeno-associated virus was at the heart of the gene therapy.

Schaffer:        The adeno-associated virus or AAV is a virus that it turns out almost all of us are familiar with already even though we don't know it.

Narrator:       David Schaffer, director of the Berkeley Stem Cell Center, explains that over 90 percent of the population has already been naturally infected with this virus and haven't noticed because it isn't a pathogen, so it doesn't cause any human disease.

Schaffer:        So it's a rather harmless and inert virus which, fortunately for us, has a lot of really positive properties. It's very safe, it's really efficient on some cell types and, as a result, has really gained a lot of momentum with the gene therapy field for being such a successful carrier, not just of its own genes, but of therapeutic genes when we manipulate the virus and use it or harness it to delivery DNA medicines.

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