In pursuit of a PhD in pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy, Sherif El-Refai also serves as an oncology pharmacist at the university’s Markey Cancer Center. As part of the Black Lab at the College of Pharmacy, Sherif El-Refai researches the ways in which gene expression affects patient responses to cancer treatments.
Under the leadership of researcher J. Julius Zhu, associate professor of pharmacology, a research team at the University of Virginia School of Medicine has created a new technique that lets scientists more quickly assess gene mutations and their effect. The technique uses lentivirus, a form of retrovirus similar to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which replaces normal genes with mutated versions.
The technology allows scientists to assess the effect of each mutation on the body. It is more time and cost efficient than currently available methods of studying gene mutation, and thus will be more accessible to the typical research laboratory. With this new technology, research that would have once taken 10 years will take only three months.
Dr. Zhu has suggested that this advancement will allow physicians to develop better customized treatments. By identifying the type and nature of a gene mutation, physicians may be able to suggest interventions that are likely to generate the proper level of gene activity.