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Klug, A. (2005). "Towards therapeutic applications of engineered zinc finger proteins." FEBS Lett 579(4): 892-4. It has long been the goal of molecular biologists to design DNA-binding proteins for the specific control of gene expression. The zinc finger design is ideally suited for such purposes, discriminating between closely related sequences both in vitro and in vivo. Whereas other DNA-binding proteins generally make use of the 2-fold symmetry of the double helix, zinc fingers do not and so can be linked linearly in tandem to recognize DNA sequences of different lengths, with high fidelity. This modular design offers a large number of combinatorial possibilities for the specific recognition of DNA. By fusing zinc finger peptides to repression or activation domains, genes can be selectively targeted and switched off and on. Several recent applications of such engineered zinc finger proteins (ZFPs) are described, including the activation of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in a human cell line and an animal model. Clinical trials have recently begun on using VEGF-activating ZFPs to treat human peripheral arterial disease, by stimulating vascular growth. Also in progress are pre-clinical studies using ZFPs to target the defective genes in two monogenic disorders, SCID and SCA. The aim is to replace them in each case by a correct copy from an extrachromosomal DNA donor by means of homologous recombination. Promising results are reported.


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