Contribution of Viruses in Molecular Biology and Cancer Therapy

A.K. Bhatia , Saurabh Gupta, Anjna Goel


Viruses are important agents of many human diseases, ranging from the trivial (e.g. common colds) to the lethal (e.g. rabies), and viruses also play roles in the development of several types of cancer. Another area where viruses can cause economic damage is in the dairy industry, where phages can infect the lactic acid bacteria that are responsible for the fermentations that produce milk products. Viruses also cause diseases in plants. Aside from being the causative agents of many diseases in diversified species of animal and plant kigdom, viruses are important tools in cell biology research, particularly in studies on macromolecular synthesis. Therefore, there is a requirement to understand the nature of viruses, how they replicate and cause the disease. This knowledge permits the development of effective means for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of virus diseases through the production of vaccines, diagnostic reagents and techniques, and antiviral drugs. Recombinant viruses can be used as vectors to carry (transduce) selected genes into cells. In this approach, viral genes required for the lytic cycle are replaced by other genes. The use of viral vectors for gene therapy is still in its infancy, but has great potential for treatment of various diseases. Conventional chemotherapy and radiotherapy have limited therapeutic index and a plethora of treatment related side effects. This situation has provided a drive for search of novel therapeutic strategies (like virotherapy) that can selectively destroy the tumour cells, leaving the normal cells unharmed. Viral oncotherapy is such a promising treatment modality that offers unique opportunity for tumour targeting. Numerous viruses with inherent anti-cancer activity have been identified and are in different phases of clinical trials.

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