Could gene therapy be an effective treatment for chlamydia?

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Researchers from the University of Waterloo (Canada) have developed a gene therapy against chlamydia. The nanoparticle formulation can simultaneously induce autophagy in human cells and knock down PDGFR-β gene expression, an important surface binding protein for C. trachomatis.

Although chlamydia can generally be treated with antibiotics, increasing resistance has led to a call for alternative strategies. This study, published recently in Scientific Reports, presents a new nanoparticle formulation that contains siRNA against PDGFR-β – an important protein C. trachomatis uses to bind to human cells in the female reproductive tract.

The treatment thus prevents the majority of bacteria from entering cells in the genital tract by downregulating PDGFR-β; and for those that do, the nanoparticle formulation also induces autophagy, providing another layer of protection. In in vitro experiments, the drug has demonstrated that can decrease intracellular C. trachomatis and extracellular release of C. trachomatis by 65% and 67% respectively.

“By targeting PDGFR-β we’re able to stop the creation of the protein that chlamydia will use to enter genital tract skin cells,” commented author, Emmanuel Ho, a Professor at the University of Waterloo (Canada). “As a result, an incoming infection has fewer targets to latch onto and infection is less likely to occur.”

Ho concluded: “As the Food and Drug Administration in the United States has recently approved the first siRNA-based drug for market, we’re hopeful this kind of research will be able to be widely available in the future.”

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Source: Yang S, Traore Y, Jiminez C, Ho EA. Autophagy induction and PDGFR-β knockdown by siRNA-encapsulated nanoparticles reduce chlamydia trachomatis infection. Sci. Rep. 9, 1306 (2019).

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