Health

Viruses Engineered to Attack Themselves

[San Francisco Gate]

Leor Weinberger of the Gladstone Institutes studies how viruses work and how they can be manipulated. {Photo: Lacy Atkins, The Chronicle}

Leor Weinberger calls it hijacking the hijacker.

In his lab at the Gladstone Institutes, he’s developed a technique for harnessing stray bits of HIV – a virus that infects and ultimately kills immune cells – and using them to attack the virus itself.

His work, still preliminary and untested in animals or humans, is part of what some scientists are calling a “renaissance” in viral therapy. Giant advances in our understanding of how viruses work and how they can be manipulated have led to a growing field of research in using them to fight some of the world’s deadliest diseases.

“We’re building a therapy for HIV, because that’s what we are experts in, but we believe this is not just HIV-specific,” said Weinberger, an associate investigator at Gladstone.

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