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GEN’s editorial staff interviews life science academic and biotech industry leaders on important research, technology, and trends. These podcasts will keep you informed with all the important details you need.

Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have developed a versatile mouse model of glioblastoma that closely resembles the development and progression of human brain tumors that arise naturally.

During this week's podcast, Dr. Inder Verma discusses what makes his mouse model system so novel and how it differs from other animal models for studying cancer. He also explains how this model avoids the limitations of other currently used cancer models and why he specifically targeted astrocytes with lentiviral vectors.

The Salk research study was based on the cancer stem cell hypothesis, which posits that cancers grow from stem cells in the same way healthy tissues do. Dr. Verma details how his group carried out tests to see if the induced glioblastomas in his mouse model actually contained bona fide cancer stem cells. He also looks at new avenues of research on cancer that might now open up as a result of his animal studies.
Inder M. Verma, a professor in the Laboratory of Genetics and American Cancer Society Professor of Molecular Biology, is one of the world's leading authorities on the development of viruses for gene therapy vectors. Dr. Verma uses genetically engineered viruses to insert new genes into cells that can then be returned to the body, where they produce the essential protein whose absence causes disease. Dr. Verma and Salk colleagues developed a gene therapy vector, based on a stripped-down version of HIV that can deliver genes to nondividing cells, which constitute the majority of the cells in our bodies. They have used this vector successfully to deliver the clotting factor gene to laboratory animals and to transfer a therapeutic gene to retinal cells to mice with an inborn deficiency. Dr. Verma's group is also studying two genes implicated in familial breast cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2, and recently demonstrated that their action is linked to the cell's division cycle and that BRCA1 regulates gene activity. Dr. Verma, though a basic scientist, has been an ardent supporter of translational research, “bench to bedside”. He was a founder of one of the first gene therapy related biotech companies in the world—Cell Genesys. Presently he serves on the board of this company. He also serves on the Scientific Advisory Boards of many biotech companies both Nationally and Internationally. Dr. Verma has been on the editorial boards of a number of international scientific journals, including serving as editor-in-chief of Molecular Therapy, a journal specializing in gene therapy. He is also handling editor for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA).

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