Fetal gene therapy of -thalassemia in a mouse model

Cardiovascular Research Institute, Institute of Human Genetics and Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 9.67). 06/2007; 104(21):9007-11. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0702457104
Source: PubMed


Fetuses with homozygous alpha-thalassemia usually die at the third trimester of pregnancy or soon after birth. Hence, the disease could potentially be a target for fetal gene therapy. We have previously established a mouse model of alpha-thalassemia. These mice mimic the human alpha-thalassemic conditions and can be used as preclinical models for fetal gene therapy. We tested a lentiviral vector containing the HS 2, 3, and 4 of the beta-LCR, a central polypurine tract element, and the beta-globin gene promoter directing either the EGFP or the human alpha-globin gene. We showed that the GFP expression was erythroid-specific and detected in BFU-E colonies and the erythroid progenies of CFU-GEMM. For in utero gene delivery, we did yolk sac vessel injection at midgestation of mouse embryos. The recipient mice were analyzed after birth for human alpha-globin gene expression. In the newborn, human alpha-globin gene expression was detected in the liver, spleen, and peripheral blood. The human alpha-globin gene expression was at the peak at 3-4 months, when it reached 20% in some recipients. However, the expression declined at 7 months. Colony-forming assays in these mice showed low abundance of the transduced human alpha-globin gene in their BFU-E and CFU-GEMM and the lack of its transcript. Thus, lentiviral vectors can be an effective vehicle for delivering the human alpha-globin gene into erythroid cells in utero, but, in the mouse model, delivery at late midgestation could not transduce hematopoietic stem cells adequately to sustain gene expression.

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    • "Additional erythroid-specific transcriptional elements were also investigated within onco-retroviral vectors, including the HS40 regulatory region from the human α-locus[1213] and alternative promoters. The promoter of ankyrin, a red cell membrane protein, has shown some promise in transgenic mice and in transduced MEL cells.[14] "
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    ABSTRACT: Thalassemias are genetically transmitted disorders. Depending upon whether the genetic defects or deletion lies in transmission of α or β globin chain gene, thalassemias are classified into α and β-thalassemias. Thus, thalassemias could be cured by introducing or correcting a gene into the hematopoietic compartment or a single stem cell. Initial attempts at gene transfer have proved unsuccessful due to limitations of available gene transfer vectors. The present review described the newer approaches to overcome these limitations, includes the introduction of lentiviral vectors. New approaches have also focused on targeting the specific mutation in the globin genes, correcting the DNA sequence or manipulating the development in DNA translocation and splicing to restore globin chain synthesis. This review mainly discusses the gene therapy strategies for the thalassemias, including the use of lentiviral vectors, generation of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, gene targeting, splice-switching and stop codon readthrough.
    No preview · Article · Jul 2012
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    • "R esearch on in utero gene transfer with animal models currently is under way, in an attempt to lay groundwork for clinical studies (Han et al., 2007; Gubbels et al., 2008; Niiya et al., 2009; Tarantal et al., 2010). If progress in this area continues, one can expect clinical research that initially will involve phase I studies. "
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    ABSTRACT: Clinical gene transfer research has involved adult and child subjects, and it is expected that gene transfer in fetal subjects will occur in the future. Some genetic diseases have serious adverse effects on the fetus before birth, and there is hope that prenatal gene therapy could prevent such disease progression. Research in animal models of prenatal gene transfer is actively being pursued. The prospect of human phase I in utero gene transfer studies raises important regulatory and ethical issues. One issue not previously addressed arises in applying U.S. research regulations to such studies. Specifically, current regulations state that research involving greater than minimal risk to the fetus and no prospect of direct benefit to the fetus or pregnant woman is not permitted. Phase I studies will involve interventions such as needle insertions through the uterus, which carry risks to the fetus including spontaneous abortion and preterm birth. It is possible that these risks will be regarded as exceeding minimal. Also, some regard the probability of therapeutic benefit in phase I studies to be so low that these studies do not satisfy the regulatory requirement that they "hold out the prospect of direct benefit" to subjects. On the basis of these considerations, investigators and institutional review boards might reasonably conclude that some phase I in utero studies are not to be permitted. This paper identifies considerations that are relevant to such judgments and explores ethically acceptable ways in which phase I studies can be designed so that they are permitted by the regulations.
    Preview · Article · Aug 2011 · Human gene therapy
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    • "This study demonstrates the potential of fetal gene therapy to correct a genetic defect that is lethal in humans, in a preclinical model. Other disorders where preclinical fetal gene transfer studies have shown partial correction of a genetic defect include mucopolysaccharidosis type VII,34,35 Crigler-Najjar Syndrome Type 1,36α-thalassemia,37 hemophilia B,38 cystic fibrosis,39 and Pompe disease.40 In this study, the improvements in muscle pathology, which are also reflected in functional benefit in the diaphragm, suggest that dystrophin gene transfer in utero for the treatment of dystrophin deficiency has the potential to preserve muscle regenerative capacity by gene replacement at this very early stage. "
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    ABSTRACT: Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a devastating primary muscle disease with pathological changes in skeletal muscle that are ongoing at the time of birth. Progressive deterioration in striated muscle function in affected individuals ultimately results in early death due to cardio-pulmonary failure. As affected individuals can be identified before birth by prenatal genetic testing for DMD, gene replacement treatment can be started in utero. This approach offers the possibility of preventing pathological changes in muscle that begin early in life. To test in utero gene transfer in the mdx mouse model of DMD, a minidystrophin gene driven by the human cytomegalovirus promoter was delivered systemically by an intraperitoneal injection to the fetus at embryonic day 16. Treated mdx mice studied at 9 weeks after birth showed widespread expression of recombinant dystrophin in skeletal muscle, restoration of the dystrophin-associated glycoprotein complex in dystrophin-expressing muscle fibers, improved muscle pathology, and functional benefit to the transduced diaphragm compared with untreated littermate controls. These results support the potential of the AAV8 vector to efficiently cross the blood vessel barrier to achieve systemic gene transfer to skeletal muscle in utero in a mouse model of muscular dystrophy, to significantly improve the dystrophic phenotype and to ameliorate the processes that lead to exhaustion of the skeletal muscle regenerative capacity.
    Preview · Article · Nov 2010 · Gene therapy
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