Neurotropic adeno-associated virus (AAV) serotypes such as AAV9 have been demonstrated to transduce spinal alpha motor neurons when administered intravenously (i.v.) at high doses. This observation led to the recent successful application of i.v. AAV9 delivery to treat infants with spinal muscular atrophy, an inherited deficiency of the survival of motor neuron (SMN) protein characterized by selective death of lower motor neurons. To evaluate the efficiency of motor neuron transduction with an AAV9 variant (AAVhu68) using this approach, three juvenile nonhuman primates (NHPs; aged 14 months) and three piglets (aged 7–30 days) were treated with an i.v. injection of an AAVhu68 vector carrying a human SMN transgene at a dose similar to that employed in the spinal muscular atrophy clinical trial. Administration of 2 × 10 14 genome copies per kilogram of body weight resulted in widespread transduction of spinal motor neurons in both species. However, severe toxicity occurred in both NHPs and piglets. All three NHPs exhibited marked transaminase elevations. In two NHPs, the transaminase elevations resolved without clinical sequelae, while one NHP developed acute liver failure and shock and was euthanized 4 days after vector injection. Degeneration of dorsal root ganglia sensory neurons was also observed, although NHPs exhibited no clinically apparent sensory deficits. There was no correlation between clinical findings and T-cell responses to the vector capsid or transgene product in NHPs. Piglets demonstrated no evidence of hepatic toxicity, but within 14 days of vector injection, all three animals exhibited proprioceptive deficits and ataxia, which profoundly impaired ambulation and necessitated euthanasia. These clinical findings correlated with more severe dorsal root ganglia sensory neuron lesions than those observed in NHPs. The liver and sensory neuron findings appear to be a direct consequence of AAV transduction independent of an immune response to the capsid or transgene product. The present results and those of another recent study utilizing a different AAV9 variant and transgene indicate that systemic and sensory neuron toxicity may be general properties of i.v. delivery of AAV vectors at high doses, irrespective of the capsid serotype or transgene. Preclinical and clinical studies involving high systemic doses of AAV vectors should include careful monitoring for similar toxicities.
CRISPR/Cas9 derived from the bacterial adaptive immunity pathway is a powerful tool for genome editing, but the safety profiles of in vivo delivered Cas9 (including host immune responses to the bacterial Cas9 protein) have not been comprehensively investigated in model organisms. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a prevalent human liver disease characterized by excessive fat accumulation in the liver. In this study, we used adenovirus (Ad) vector to deliver a Streptococcus pyogenes –derived Cas9 system (SpCas9) targeting Pten , a gene involved in NASH and a negative regulator of the PI3K-AKT pathway, in mouse liver. We found that the Ad vector mediated efficient Pten gene editing even in the presence of typical Ad vector-associated immunotoxicity in the liver. Four months after vector infusion, mice receiving the Pten gene-editing Ad vector showed massive hepatomegaly and features of NASH, consistent with the phenotypes following Cre-loxP-induced Pten deficiency in mouse liver. We also detected induction of humoral immunity against SpCas9 and the potential presence of an SpCas9-specific cellular immune response. Our findings provide a strategy to model human liver diseases in mice and highlight the importance considering Cas9-specific immune responses in future translational studies involving in vivo delivery of CRISPR/Cas9.
Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) is a group of autosomal recessive blinding retinal diseases that are incurable. One molecular form is caused by mutations in the RPE65 (retinal pigment epithelium-specific 65-kDa) gene. A recombinant adeno-associated virus serotype 2 (rAAV2) vector, altered to carry the human RPE65 gene (rAAV2-CBSB-hRPE65), restored vision in animal models with RPE65 deficiency. A clinical trial was designed to assess the safety of rAAV2-CBSB-hRPE65 in subjects with RPE65-LCA. Three young adults (ages 21-24 years) with RPE65-LCA received a uniocular subretinal injection of 5.96 X 10(10) vector genomes in 150 mu l and were studied with follow-up examinations for 90 days. Ocular safety, the primary outcome, was assessed by clinical eye examination. Visual function was measured by visual acuity and dark-adapted full-field sensitivity testing (FST); central retinal structure was monitored by optical coherence tomography (OCT). Neither vector-related serious adverse events nor systemic toxicities were detected. Visual acuity was not significantly different from baseline; one patient showed retinal thinning at the fovea by OCT. All patients self-reported increased visual sensitivity in the study eye compared with their control eye, especially noticeable under reduced ambient light conditions. The dark-adapted FST results were compared between baseline and 30-90 days after treatment. For study eyes, sensitivity increases from mean baseline were highly significant (p < 0.001); whereas, for control eyes, sensitivity changes were not significant (p = 0.99). Comparisons are drawn between the present work and two other studies of ocular gene therapy for RPE65-LCA that were carried out contemporaneously and reported.
Adeno-associated viruses (AAVs) are small, nonenveloped single-stranded DNA viruses that require helper viruses to facilitate efficient replication. Despite the presence of humoral responses to the wild-type AAV in humans, AAV remains one of the most promising candidates for therapeutic gene transfer to treat many genetic and acquired diseases. Characterization of the IgG subclass responses to AAV and study of the prevalence of both IgG and neutralizing factors to AAV types 1, 2, 5, 6, 8, and 9 in the human population are of importance for the development of new strategies to overcome these immune responses. Natural exposure to AAV types 1, 2, 5, 6, 8, and 9 can result in the production of antibodies from all four IgG subclasses, with a predominant IgG1 response and low IgG2, IgG3, and IgG4 responses. Prevalences of anti-AAV1 and -AAV2 total IgG determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay were higher (67 and 72%) than those of anti-AAV5 (40%), anti-AAV6 (46%), anti-AAV8 (38%), and anti-AAV9 (47%). Furthermore, data showed that cross-reactions are important. The two highest neutralizing factor seroprevalences were observed for AAV2 (59%) and AAV1 (50.5%) and the lowest were observed for AAV8 (19%) and AAV5 (3.2%). Vectors based on AAV5, AAV8, and AAV9 may have an advantage for gene therapy in humans. Furthermore, among individuals seropositive for AAV5, AAV8, and AAV9, about 70-100% present low titers. Better characterization of the preexisting humoral responses to the AAV capsid and cross-reactivity will allow development of new strategies to circumvent AAV acquired immune responses.
In this review we address the development of oligonucleotide (ON) medicines from a historical perspective by listing the landmark discoveries in this field. The various biological processes that have been targeted and the corresponding ON interventions found in the literature are discussed together with brief updates on some of the more recent developments. Most ON therapies act through antisense mechanisms and are directed against various RNA species, as exemplified by gapmers, steric block ONs, antagomirs, small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), micro-RNA mimics, and splice switching ONs. However, ONs binding to Toll-like receptors and those forming aptamers have completely different modes of action. Similar to other novel medicines, the path to success has been lined with numerous failures, where different therapeutic ONs did not stand the test of time. Since the first ON drug was approved for clinical use in 1998, the therapeutic landscape has changed considerably, but many challenges remain until the expectations for this new form of medicine are met. However, there is room for cautious optimism.
Mucopolysaccharidosis type IIIA is a severe degenerative disease caused by an autosomal recessive defect of a gene encoding a lysosomal heparan-N-sulfamidase, the N-sulfoglycosamine sulfohydrolase (SGSH), the catalytic site of which is activated by a sulfatase-modifying factor (SUMF1). Four children (Patients 1–3, aged between 5.5 and 6 years; Patient 4 aged 2 years 8 months) received intracerebral injections of an adeno-associated viral vector serotype rh.10- SGSH-IRES-SUMF1 vector in a phase I/II clinical trial. All children were able to walk, but their cognitive abilities were abnormal and had declined (Patients 1–3). Patients 1–3 presented with brain atrophy. The therapeutic vector was delivered in a frameless stereotaxic device, at a dose of 7.2×10 11 viral genomes/patient simultaneously via 12 needles as deposits of 60 μl over a period of 2 hr. The vector was delivered bilaterally to the white matter anterior, medial, and posterior to the basal ganglia. Immunosuppressive treatment (mycophenolate mofetil and tacrolimus) was initiated 15 days before surgery and maintained for 8 weeks (mycophenolate mofetil) or throughout follow-up (tacrolimus, with progressive dose reduction) to prevent elimination of transduced cells. Safety data collected from inclusion, during the neurosurgery period and over the year of follow-up, showed good tolerance, absence of adverse events related to the injected product, no increase in the number of infectious events, and no biological sign of toxicity related to immunosuppressive drugs. Efficacy analysis was necessarily preliminary in this phase I/II trial on four children, in the absence of validated surrogate markers. Brain atrophy evaluated by magnetic resonance imaging seemed to be stable in Patients 1 and 3 but tended to increase in Patients 2 and 4. Neuropsychological evaluations suggested a possible although moderate improvement in behavior, attention, and sleep in Patients 1–3. The youngest patient was the most likely to display neurocognitive benefit.
No curative treatment exists for glioblastoma, with median survival times of less than 2 years from diagnosis. As an approach to develop immune-based therapies for glioblastoma, we sought to target antigens expressed in glioma stem cells (GSCs). GSCs have multiple properties that make them significantly more representative of glioma tumors than established glioma cell lines. Epidermal growth factor receptor variant III (EGFRvIII) is the result of a novel tumor-specific gene rearrangement that produces a unique protein expressed in approximately 30% of gliomas, and is an ideal target for immunotherapy. Using PCR primers spanning the EGFRvIII-specific deletion, we found that this tumor-specific gene is expressed in three of three GCS lines. Based on the sequence information of seven EGFRvIII-specific monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), we assembled chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) and evaluated the ability of CAR-engineered T cells to recognize EGFRvIII. Three of these anti-EGFRvIII CAR-engineered T cells produced the effector cytokine, interferon-γ, and lysed antigen-expressing target cells. We concentrated development on a CAR produced from human mAb 139, which specifically recognized GSC lines and glioma cell lines expressing mutant EGFRvIII, but not wild-type EGFR and did not recognize any normal human cell tested. Using the 139-based CAR, T cells from glioblastoma patients could be genetically engineered to recognize EGFRvIII-expressing tumors and could be expanded ex vivo to large numbers, and maintained their antitumor activity. Based on these observations, a γ-retroviral vector expressing this EGFRvIII CAR was produced for clinical application. Morgan and colleagues have developed a novel chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-based immunotherapy for glioblastoma. The CAR is directed against epidermal growth factor receptor variant III (EGFRvIII), which is expressed in ∼30% of gliomas. They demonstrate that T cells from patients with glioblastoma could be genetically engineered, using a gammaretroviral vector, to recognize EGFRvIII-expressing tumors and that these T cells could be expanded ex vivo to large numbers.
Gene therapy is at the cusp of a revolution for treating a large spectrum of CNS disorders by providing a durable therapeutic protein via a single administration. Adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated gene transfer is of particular interest as a therapeutic tool because of its safety profile and efficiency in transducing a wide range of cell types. The purpose of this review is to describe the most notable advancements in preclinical and clinical research on AAV-based CNS gene therapy and to discuss prospects for future development based on a new generation of vectors and delivery.
Recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) vectors offer promise for the gene therapy of alpha(1)-antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency. in our prior trial, an rAAV vector expressing human AAT (rAAV1-CB-hAAT) provided sustained, vector-derived AAT expression for > 1 year. In the current phase 2 clinical trial, this same vector, produced by a herpes simplex virus complementation method, was administered to nine AAT-deficient individuals by intramuscular injection at doses of 6.0 x 10(11), 1.9x 10(12), and 6.0 x 10(12) vector genomes/kg (n = 3 subjects/dose). Vector-derived expression of normal (M-type) AAT in serum was dose dependent, peaked on day 30, and persisted for at least 90 days. Vector administration was well tolerated, with only mild injection site reactions and no serious adverse events. Serum creatine kinase was transiently elevated on day 30 in five of six subjects in the two higher dose groups and normalized by day 45. As expected, all subjects developed anti-AAV antibodies and interferon-gamma enzyme-linked immunospot responses to AAV peptides, and no subjects developed antibodies to AAT. One subject in the mid-dose group developed T cell responses to a single AAT peptide unassociated with any clinical effects. Muscle biopsies obtained on day 90 showed strong immunostaining for AAT and moderate to marked inflammatory cell infiltrates composed primarily of CD3-reactive T lymphocytes that were primarily of the CD8(+) subtype. These results support the feasibility and safety of AAV gene therapy for AAT deficiency, and indicate that serum levels of vector-derived normal human AAT >20 mu g/ml can be achieved. However, further improvements in the design or delivery of rAAV-AAT vectors will be required to achieve therapeutic target serum AAT concentrations.
Mesenchymal stromal/stem cells (MSCs) are a population of stromal cells present in the bone marrow and most connective tissues, capable of differentiation into mesenchymal tissues such as bone and cartilage. MSCs are attractive candidates for biological cell-based tissue repair approaches because of their extensive proliferative ability in culture while retaining their mesenchymal multilineage differentiation potential. In addition to its undoubted scientific interest, the prospect of monitoring and controlling MSC differentiation is a crucial regulatory and clinical requirement. Hence, the molecular regulation of MSC differentiation has been extensively studied. Most of the studies are in vitro, because the identity of MSCs in their tissues of origin in vivo remains undefined. This review addresses the current knowledge of the molecular basis of differentiation of cultured MSCs, with a particular focus on chondrogenesis and osteogenesis. Building on the information coming from developmental biology studies of embryonic skeletogenesis, several signaling pathways and transcription factors have been investigated and shown to play critical roles in MSC differentiation. In particular, the Wnt and transforming growth factor-beta/bone morphogenetic protein signaling pathways are well known to modulate in MSCs the molecular differentiation into cartilage and bone. Relevant to the emerging concept of stem cell niches is the demonstration that physical factors can also participate in the regulation of MSC differentiation. Knowledge of the regulation of MSC differentiation will be critical in the design of three-dimensional culture systems and bioreactors for automated bioprocessing through mathematical models applied to systems biology and network science.
Allogeneic mesenchymal stem or stromal cells (MSCs) are proposed as cell therapies for degenerative, inflammatory, and autoimmune diseases. The feasibility of allogeneic MSC therapies rests heavily on the concept that these cells avoid or actively suppress the immunological responses that cause rejection of most allogeneic cells and tissues. In this article the validity of the immune privileged status of allogeneic MSCs is explored in the context of recent literature. Current data that provide the mechanistic basis for immune modulation by MSCs are reviewed with particular attention to how MSCs modify the triggering and effector functions of innate and adaptive immunity. The ability of MSCs to induce regulatory dendritic and T-cell populations is discussed with regard to cell therapy for autoimmune disease. Finally, we examine the evidence for and against the immune privileged status of allogeneic MSCs in vivo. Allogeneic MSCs emerge as cells that are responsive to local signals and exert wide-ranging, predominantly suppressive, effects on innate and adaptive immunity. Nonetheless, these cells also retain a degree of immunogenicity in some circumstances that may limit MSC longevity and attenuate their beneficial effects. Ultimately successful allogeneic cell therapies will rely on an improved understanding of the parameters of MSC-immune system interactions in vivo.
Human gene therapy with rAAV2-vector was performed for the RPE65 form of childhood blindness called Leber congenital amaurosis. In three contemporaneous studies by independent groups, the procedure was deemed safe and there was evidence of visual gain in the short term. At 12 months after treatment, our young adult subjects remained healthy and without vector-related serious adverse events. Results of immunological assays to identify reaction to AAV serotype 2 capsid were unchanged from baseline measurements. Results of clinical eye examinations of study and control eyes, including visual acuities and central retinal structure by in vivo microscopy, were not different from those at the 3-month time point. The remarkable improvements in visual sensitivity we reported by 3 months were unchanged at 12 months. The retinal extent and magnitude of rod and cone components of the visual sensitivity between 3 and 12 months were also the same. The safety and efficacy of human retinal gene transfer with rAAV2- RPE65 vector extends to at least 1 year posttreatment.
Genome editing using the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR associated 9 (Cas9) technology is revolutionizing the study of gene function and likely will give rise to an entire new class of therapeutics for a wide range of diseases. Achieving this goal requires not only characterization of the technology for efficacy and specificity but also optimization of its delivery to the target cells for each disease indication. In this review we survey the various methods by which the CRISPR/Cas9 components have been delivered to cells and highlight some of the more clinically relevant approaches. Additionally, we discuss the methods available for assessing the specificity of Cas9 editing; an important safety consideration for development of the technology.
β-globin gene disorders are the most prevalent inherited diseases worldwide and result from abnormal β-globin synthesis or structure. Novel therapeutic approaches are being developed in an effort to move beyond palliative management. Gene therapy, by ex vivo lentiviral transfer of a therapeutic β- globin gene derivative (β AT87Q - globin ) to hematopoietic stem cells, driven by cis-regulatory elements that confer high, erythroid-specific expression, has been evaluated in human clinical trials over the past 8 years. β AT87Q -globin is used both as a strong inhibitor of HbS polymerization and as a biomarker. While long-term studies are underway in multiple centers in Europe and in the United States, proof-of-principle of efficacy and safety has already been obtained in multiple patients with β-thalassemia and sickle cell disease.
Human adenoviruses are the most widely used vectors in gene medicine, with applications ranging from oncolytic therapies to vaccinations, but adenovirus vectors are not without side effects. In addition, natural adenoviruses pose severe risks for immunocompromised people, yet infections are usually mild and self-limiting in immunocompetent individuals. Here we describe how adenoviruses are recognized by the host innate defense system during entry and replication in immune and nonimmune cells. Innate defense protects the host and represents a major barrier to using adenoviruses as therapeutic interventions in humans. Innate response against adenoviruses involves intrinsic factors present at constant levels, and innate factors mounted by the host cell upon viral challenge. These factors exert antiviral effects by directly binding to viruses or viral components, or shield the virus, for example, soluble factors, such as blood clotting components, the complement system, preexisting immunoglobulins, or defensins. In addition, Toll-like receptors and lectins in the plasma membrane and endosomes are intrinsic factors against adenoviruses. Important innate factors restricting adenovirus in the cytosol are tripartite motif-containing proteins, nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain-like inflammatory receptors, and DNA sensors triggering interferon, such as DEAD (Asp-Glu-Ala-Asp) box polypeptide 41 and cyclic guanosine monophosphate–adenosine monophosphate synthase. Adenovirus tunes the function of antiviral autophagy, and counters innate defense by virtue of its early proteins E1A, E1B, E3, and E4 and two virus-associated noncoding RNAs VA-I and VA-II. We conclude by discussing strategies to engineer adenovirus vectors with attenuated innate responses and enhanced delivery features.
This review describes the historical emergence of the concept of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), summarizing data on Wolf and Trentin's hematopoietic inductive microenvironment; Dexter's hematopoiesis-supportive stromal cells; Friedenstein's osteogenic cells; and Pittenger's trilineal osteoblastic, chondrocytic, and adipocytic precursors; to finally introduce the specific bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells with differentiation potential to four lineages (mesenchymal and vascular smooth muscle lineages), and stromal and immunomodulatory capacities. Two points are the object of detailed discussion. The first point envisions the stem cell attributes (multipotentiality, self-renewal, tissue regeneration, population heterogeneity, plasticity, and lineage priming) compared with that of the paradigmatic hematopoietic stem cell. In the second point, we discuss the possible existence of bone marrow cells with greater differentiation potential, eventually pluripotential cells. The latter point raises the issues of cell fusion, reprogramming, or selection under nonstandardized conditions of rare populations of neuroectodermal origin, or of cells that had undergone mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition. In the last section, we review data on MSC senescence and possible malignant transformation secondary to extensive culture, gene transfer of telomerase, or mutations such as leading to Ewing's sarcoma. The set of data leads to the conclusion that bone marrow MSCs constitute a specific adult tissue stem cell population. The multiple characteristics of this stem cell type account for the versatility of the mechanisms of injured tissue repair. Although MSC administration may be extremely useful in a number of clinical applications, their transplantation is not without risks that must not be overlooked when developing cell therapy protocols.
Widespread distribution of gene products at clinically relevant levels throughout the CNS has been challenging. Adeno-associated virus type 9 (AAV9) vector has been reported as a good candidate for intravascular gene delivery, but low levels of preexisting antibody titers against AAV in the blood abrogate cellular transduction within the CNS. In the present study we compared the effectiveness of vascular delivery and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) delivery of AAV9 in transducing CNS tissue in nonhuman primates. Both delivery routes generated similar distribution patterns, although we observed a more robust level of transduction after CSF delivery. Consistent with previous reports administering AAV9, we found greater astrocytic than neuronal tropism via both routes, although we did find a greater magnitude of CNS transduction after CSF delivery compared with intravascular delivery. Last, we have demonstrated that delivery of AAV9 into the CSF does not shield against AAV antibodies. This has obvious implications when developing and/or implementing any clinical trial studies. Samaranch and colleagues compare the effectiveness of vascular and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) delivery of AAV serotype 9 (AAV9) vector in transducing CNS tissue in nonhuman primates. They demonstrate that both delivery routes generate similar overall distribution patterns and result in primarily astrocytic transduction, although the CSF route leads to a greater magnitude of CNS transduction. They also confirm that preexisting anti-AAV antibodies abrogate brain transduction via both routes of administration.
Fifty years after the discovery of adeno-associated virus (AAV) and more than 30 years after the first gene transfer experiment was conducted, dozens of gene therapy clinical trials are in progress, one vector is approved for use in Europe, and breakthroughs in virus modification and disease modeling are paving the way for a revolution in the treatment of rare diseases, cancer, as well as HIV. This review will provide a historical perspective on the progression of AAV for gene therapy from discovery to the clinic, focusing on contributions from the Samulski lab regarding basic science and cloning of AAV, optimized large-scale production of vectors, preclinical large animal studies and safety data, vector modifications for improved efficacy, and successful clinical applications.
CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing platforms are widely applied as powerful tools in basic research and potential therapeutics for genome regulation. The appropriate alternative of delivery system is critical if genome editing systems are to be effectively performed in the targeted cells or organisms. To date, the in vivo delivery of the Cas9 system remains challenging. Both physical methods and viral vectors are adopted in the delivery of the Cas9-based gene editing platform. However, physical methods are more applicable for in vitro delivery, while viral vectors are generally concerned with safety issues, limited packing capacities, and so on. With the robust development of nonviral drug delivery systems, lipid- or polymer-based nanocarriers might be potent vectors for the delivery of CRISPR/Cas9 systems. In this review, we look back at the delivery approaches that have been used for the delivery of the Cas9 system and outline the recent development of nonviral vectors that might be potential carriers for the genome editing platform in the future. The efforts in optimizing cationic nanocarriers with structural modification are described and promising nonviral vectors under clinical investigations are highlighted.