Areas discussed included the use of animal models such as transgenic rats to study hereditary diseases like high blood pressure and their causes, gene transfer with viral vectors and gene therapy.
Dr. Claudio Bordignon from the Scientific Institute of San Raffaele in Milan, Italy, spoke on gene therapy for ADA-deficiency, an extremely rare disease of the immune system. The Italian immunologist and molecular biologist was the first scientist in Europe to start gene therapy in March 1992. Dr. Robert Williamson from the St. Mary' s Hospital Medical School, London (UK) discussed somatic gene therapy for cystic fibrosis, the most cömmon lethai hereditary disease in Europe and the USA. The gene defect disrupts mucus production in the lungs leading to infections which are ultimately fatal.
The two-day symposium was organised by the research group for gene therapy from the Max Planck Gesellschaft (Max Planck Society) at the MDC and the MDC itself. The latter is one of three new research centres in the new länder (states) of Germany. The aim of the centre, which was founded a year ago, is to quickly apply the progress made in basic research in molecular biology to the clinical setting. The MDC obtains 90 per cent of its funding from the Federal Ministry for Research and Technology in Bonn, with the remaining 10 per cent coming from the city of Berlin.
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