Interdisciplinary Research Institute for Human and Molecular Biology
Understanding the intricate functioning of our cells is essential for the development of new strategies aimed at correcting anomalies responsible for pathologies.
Within the framework of an approach referred to as "functional genomics", this unit is seeking to identify the genes responsible for diseases which may be potential targets for new treatments.
To this end,it uses molecular genetic techniques to produce "transgenic" mice which are used as a model of the disease.The particular gene being studied is rendered nonfunctional within the genome of the animal ("gene Knock-out").The effects on the development and behaviour of the mouse are then observed. If the animal exhibits symptoms similar to those of a known human pathology, it can be hypothesized that the studied mouse gene plays similar role in the human disease. This can then lead to the development of a new therapy.
To take one example, the unit is presently indentifying one of the genes responsible for diabetes.
In addition, the team is working to devise a "vector system" which could be used in cancer gene therapy. It is known that a cancer results, on the one hand, from the inability of our immune system to effectively recognize and destroy certain cells which have escaped the control of the organism. To help the immune system recognize and eliminate these cancerous cells, the researchers are using a virus in which they have modified the genome. This parvovirus, which has a particular affinity for cancerous cells, triggers the expression of immunostimulants which draw the attention of the immune system to the host cell. The immune system can then destroy this intruder.