Cancer and AIDS - Exploring the Viral Connection
Question: How can tiny genetic units that harbour only three genes induce viruses that cause tumours, neurodegenerative diseases, and immunodeficiency?
Answer: Powerful forces can come in tiny packages.
For virologists like Paul Jolicœur, this puzzling question is at the heart of his work to unlock the secrets of murine leukemia viruses. These viruses appear to be able to induce more than one disease at once-and their pattern of behaviour is closely linked to the viruses associated with HIV.
Using cloned genes and transgenic mice innoculated with these viruses, Jolicœur and his team of graduate students and researchers are studying the development of the diseases introduced by the viruses. With the help of the resources allocated with this research chair at the Université de Montréal, Jolicœur will also develop a more suitable genetic model of the central nervous system disease - one of the disorders these viruses cause. With that model, researchers can conduct further experiments. Their final goal is a better understanding of the neurodegenerative disorders found in certain types of Parkinson and Alzheimer's diseases.
Jolicœur and his team also want to identify the genes involved in the development of cancer and their relationship to viruses. They have already pinpointed genes they believe are responsible for triggering tumour formation. Building on this knowledge, their research should illuminate the role of these genes in normal cells as well as in tumour formation. The data should help in diagnosing and treating cancer and immune diseases.
Finally, Jolicœur hopes his probing into retroviruses will give him insight into both HIV and another AIDS-like virus known as MAIDS. This is a mouse retrovirus that causes a mild immune deficiency and lymphoma -caused by an infection of the B-cells. He will also use a transgenic mouse model that has been infected with HIV-1 in his research to duplicate the progression of the disease and to develop new therapies for fighting it.
Already a leading figure in the international community of virologists, Jolicœur's appointment to this chair will help the University consolidate its reputation as a leading centre for AIDS research.