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NEWS
Enhancing DNA Payloads
September 13, 2010

Chang Lu and his chemical engineering research group at Virginia Tech have discovered how to “greatly enhance” the delivery of DNA payloads into cells. Prof. Lu’s ultimate goal is to apply this technique to create genetically modified cells for cancer immunotherapy, stem cell therapy and tissue regeneration.


Chang Lu, an associate professor of chemical engineering at Virginia Tech. Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech.

One of the most widely used physical methods to deliver genes into cells “is incredibly inefficient because only a small fraction of a cell’s total membrane surface can be permeated,” said Lu, an associate professor of chemical engineering at Virginia Tech. The method Prof. Lu is referring to is called electroporation, a phenomenon known for decades that increases the permeability of a cell by applying an electric field to generate tiny pores in the membrane of cells.

Prof. Lu called the process “a new spin on DNA delivery.” He explained the process saying, “Conventional electroporation methods deliver DNA only within a very small portion of the cell surface, determined by the physics governing the interaction between an electric field and a cell. Our method enables uniform DNA delivery over the entire cell surface, which is the first time we are aware that this has been demonstrated. The result is a greatly enhanced transfer of the genetic material.”

Lead author of the paper is a former graduate student from Lu’s group, Jun Wang. Another graduate student, Yihong Zhan, and Victor Ugaz, a professor of chemical engineering at Texas A&M University coauthored the paper, together with Prof. Lu. The National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Wallace Coulter Foundation have supported this research.


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