In order to investigate the functions of a protein or to mimic the symptoms of a disease in rodents, researchers often increase or decrease the levels of a certain protein (which for instance may be malfunctional in a disease) or induce changes at the genetic material.
This manipulation can be done by injecting viruses that are assembled in laboratory environments in order to increase or decrease the levels of the protein of interest. These viruses are genetically modified, therefore present minimal risks to the experimenter as well as to the model organism. In fact, some of the viruses are currently being tested in clinical research as promising gene therapy approaches in order to treat certain disorders.
Controlled biosafety conditions
Any research that involves working with viruses should be carried in specialized experimenting rooms with controlled biosafety conditions. At the CDL, there is a biosafety level 1 and 2 rooms (DM1 and 2) in which researchers can do experiments involving the use of viruses. However, to get allowance for working in the DM1 or 2, researchers should get several permissions and introductions:
- Permission to work with genetically modified organisms (e.g., viruses)
- Permission to work in the DM1 and 2 room based on the researchers' previous experience and justifications of why this research is necessary
- Successful completion of the introduction to the rules for working in a DM1 and 2 environment
- And of course, successful completion of the LAS course and species-specific training
After these permissions are taken (of note, the project and the work protocol should be approved by the animal-welfare authorities as well), the experimenter is allowed to work in the DM1 and 2 rooms. For safety reasons and to avoid cross-room contamination of viruses, every researcher is obliged to wear a new set of laboratory coats & shoes before entering and leaving the DM1 and 2 rooms.