Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne HIV and Reserve Transcriptase

Name: Menna 
Status: student
Grade: other
Location: Outside U.S.
Country: Egypt
Date: Fall 2012

I Know a little bit about AIDS there was a question in mind for 2 days. If the HIV have reverse transcriptase enzyme why don't we make a good virus that have reverse transcriptase enzyme that change the Changed DNA to put it back to it original condition? after all i know it only a nucleic acid fragment, right ?


This is a great question! In fact, you are not the first person to think of using the ability of retroviruses or other forms of virus to insert DNA into cells. It is well known that viruses can insert harmful DNA into cells, but if a new virus was engineered with healthy, 'good', genes, might it be possible to heal damaged DNA in cells? This is the aim of gene therapy research, where genetic disorders can be potentially corrected by inserting a healthy gene into cells by means of viruses or other methodology.

There are some significant limitations, though. In general viruses that integrate into human DNA do not 'target' where they are inserted. Thus, if they are randomly inserted in the middle of a healthy gene, they might cause more problems than they solve. There are other safety concerns associated with it, and it can be very challenging to give someone a therapeutically relevant dose without incurring safety issues.

That being said, gene therapy - particularly with viruses - is an ongoing area of clinical research. In addition to its potential use in the clinic, the ability to insert specific genes into cells using viruses is widely used as a valuable research tool in the laboratory. It allows scientists to study cellular function and genetics in a very sophisticated manner.

S. Unterman Ph.D.

Click here to return to the Molecular Biology Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 223
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: November 2011
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory