The ambition of the VIB Center for Cancer Biology (CCB) is to contribute to a better understanding of the biology that underlies cancer initiation, progression and metastatic dissemination with the ultimate goal to develop more effective and specific anti-cancer (combination) therapies.
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Transgenesis & Gene Transfer - PI: P. Carmeliet
Managing PI: P. Carmeliet
The function of a gene in biological processes in vivo and its relevance for the pathogenesis of disease can be readily studied by manipulating the genome of animal models (mouse, zebrafish, tadpoles and others). Over the last three decades, the biomedical scientific community has witnessed a (r)evolution in the technical possibilities that have become available to manipulate the genome of these species with great precision, thereby offering unprecedented opportunities to generate disease animal models, elucidate new insight in biological processes in health and disease and propose novel therapeutic concepts and strategies. The latter can be tested by using additional gene manipulation strategies, amongst which gene transfer technologies. The VRC has played a pioneering role in using these technologies to study neurovascular biology: for instance, they published the first knockout mouse models that were deficient of any type of proteinase or key angiogenic factor, and provided the first genetic evidence, using a knockin strategy, that VEGF has neuroprotective activities in vivo.
Commonly used methods to generate transgenic mice (for transgenesis of zebrafish and tadpoles, we refer to the Aquatic Facility) are available at the VRC: micronuclear injection of transgenes in zygotes (plasmids as well as BAC transgenes, engineered via BAC recombineering); as well as a series of technologies based on the use of embryonic stem (ES) cells: homologous recombination of targeting vectors to inactivate genes (knockout using plasmid or BAC targeting vectors), modifiy coding or non-coding sequences of genes (knockin), conditionally inactivate genes in tissue-specific manner (Cre/LoxP or Flp/Flt technology; use of tamoxifen-inducible Cre constructs in combination with or without double-fluorescent Cre reporter mT/mG,mouse), conditionally activate genes (targeting of transgenes, preceeded by a floxed stop cassette, into the Rosa26 locus; or tetracycline-inducible rTAT system), set of Cre-mouse lines, etc. Blastocyst injection or aggregation of targeted ES cell clones are routinely used to generate chimeric mice, that are then testbred for germline transmission. Tetraploid aggregation is available to generate completely ES cell-derived embryos. Over 140 different transgenic mouse strains have been generated over the last 22 years. Recently the CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats)/Cas9 technology is being introduced. It will allow the generation of null, conditional, precisely mutated, reporter, or tagged alleles in mice with unprecedented simplicity and speed.
Several knock-out mouse strains are available for collaborations. Feel free to contact Peter Carmeliet for more information.
The mouse genome can be also manipulated via transferring transgenes to somatic cells, using the following techniques, available at the VRC:
- Non-viral gene transfer: plasmid electroporation (very efficient in skeletal muscle) and hygroporation (liver, kidney) are routinely used to transiently overexpress transgenes or silence (knockdown) endogenous genes using short hairpin RNA vectors in vivo.
- Viral gene transfer: adenoviral gene transfer in skeletal muscle or the heart to induce local transgene expression or systemic injection of recombinant adenoviruses to overexpress transgene products in the circulation (after intravenous injection, the adenovirus will transduce predominantly the hepatocytes, which will then function as a production site of the transgene protein); adeno-associated gene transfer using AAV2 and AAV8 is routinely used to overexpress transgenes or silence endogenous genes in skeletal muscle; retro- and lentiviral gene transfers methods are also available (as used for transduction of neuronal cells).