Gene Regulation and Transcription
Studies from his laboratory have involved aspects of the basic question whereby the same DNA is present in all cells but the manner in which this DNA is read out to produce proteins differs in different tissues and cell types. This is fundamental to the different characteristics and functioning of such tissues and cell types. Professor Latchman and his group have analysed the role of a number of specific transcription factors in regulating gene expression, particularly in the brain.
Herpes Simplex Virus
Professor Latchman’s laboratory initially studied the mechanism of latency in neuronal cells whereby HSV can establish silent infections of such cells and serve as a reservoir for the development of active surface infections producing facial cold sores or genital sores. His studies implicated a specific cellular transcription factor in inhibiting the virus in neuronal cells. In turn, such studies led to the development of HSV-based viral vectors designed to deliver genes to specific cell types (including neuronal cells) in gene therapy procedures. One such virus has been partially inactivated so that it only grows in dividing cells and not in non-dividing cells. This allows it to specifically replicate in tumour cells killing them without damaging the surrounding normal non-dividing cells. This vector (also including the gene for GM-CSF which stimulates an immune response to tumour cells) is now in clinical use treating patients with terminal melanoma where it produces a significant increase in life expectancy.