Adenovirus vectors are the most commonly employed vector for cancer gene therapy. They are also used for gene therapy and as vaccines to express foreign antigens. Adenovirus vectors can be replication-defective; certain essential viral genes are deleted and replaced by a cassette that expresses a foreign therapeutic gene. Such vectors are used for gene therapy, as vaccines, and for cancer therapy. Replication-competent (oncolytic) vectors are employed for cancer gene therapy. Oncolytic vectors are engineered to replicate preferentially in cancer cells and to destroy cancer cells through the natural process of lytic virus replication. Many clinical trials indicate that replication-defective and replication-competent adenovirus vectors are safe and have therapeutic activity.
The importance of safer approaches for gene therapy has been underscored by a series of severe adverse events (SAEs) observed in patients involved in clinical trials for Severe Combined Immune Deficiency Disease (SCID) and Chromic Granulomatous Disease (CGD). While a new generation of viral vectors is in the process of replacing the classical gamma-retrovirus – based approach, a number of strategies have emerged based on non-viral vectorization and/or targeted insertion aimed at achieving safer gene transfer. Currently, these methods display lower efficacies than viral transduction although many of them can yield more than 1% engineered cells in vitro. Nuclease-based approaches, wherein an endonuclease is used to trigger site-specific genome editing, can significantly increase the percentage of targeted cells. These methods therefore provide a real alternative to classical gene transfer as well as gene editing. However, the first endonuclease to be in clinic today is not used for gene transfer, but to inactivate a gene (CCR5) required for HIV infection. Here, we review these alternative approaches, with a special emphasis on meganucleases, a family of naturally occurring rare-cutting endonucleases, and speculate on their current and future potential.
miR-122, a completely conserved liver-specific miRNA in vertebrates, is essential for the maintenance of liver homeostasis. This 22 nucleotide RNA regulates diverse functions such as cholesterol, glucose and iron homeostasis, lipid metabolism and infection of hepatitis C virus (HCV) and of the parasitic protozoa, Leishmania donovani. It is the first miRNA that underwent successful clinical trials in HCV infected patients. In contrast, miR-122 expression is reduced in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) patients, and in a subset of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients including hepatitis B virus (HBV) positive patients with highly invasive and metastatic cancer. Studies in mice genetically depleted of miR-122 have highlighted its critical role in liver biology. These mice progressively develop steatohepatitis, fibrosis and hepatocellular cancer, establishing it as a bona fide tumor suppressor. Additionally, delivery of miR-122 using a viral vector or liposomal nanoparticles resulted in liver tumor suppression in animal models. These results suggest miR-122 supplementation might be beneficial in NASH or HBV positive HCC patients. Furthermore, circulating miR-122 has emerged as a sensitive biomarker for liver injury. The ability of miR-122 to promote differentiation of embryonic and adult stem cells to hepatocyte-like cells in vitro suggests its potential role in driving the hepatic differentiation program. In this review, we will discuss the role of miR-122 in liver physiology and the deleterious consequences of its loss of function, its role as a sensitive biomarker for liver injury and therapeutic target. Development of novel technologies for targeted delivery of miR-122 to tumor cells and for direct monitoring of miR-122 in biological fluids is urgently needed for translating the basic research to the bedside. This review focuses on miR-122, the most abundant hepatic miRNA, in the context of liver health and diseases.
Exosomes are a subtype of membrane vesicle released from the endocytic compartment of live cells. They play an important role in endogenous cell-to-cell communication. Previously shown to be capable of traversing biological barriers and to naturally transport functional nucleic acids between cells, they potentially represent a novel and exciting drug delivery vehicle for the field of gene therapy. Existing delivery vehicles are limited by concerns regarding their safety, toxicity and efficacy. In contrast, exosomes, as a natural cell-derived nanocarrier, are immunologically inert if purified from a compatible cell source and possess an intrinsic ability to cross biological barriers. Already utilised in a number of clinical trials, exosomes appear to be well-tolerated, even following repeat administration. Recent studies have shown that exosomes may be used to encapsulate and protect exogenous oligonucleotides for delivery to target cells. They therefore may be valuable for the delivery of RNA interference and microRNA regulatory molecules in addition to other singlestranded oligonucleotides. Prior to clinical translation, this nanotechnology requires further development by refinement of isolation, purification, loading, delivery and targeting protocols. Thus, exosome-mediated nanodelivery is highly promising and may fill the void left by current delivery methods for systemic gene therapy.
A previously published clinical trial demonstrated the benefit of autologous CD34 + cells transduced with a selfinactivating lentiviral vector (HPV569) containing an engineered β-globin gene (β A-T87Q -globin) in a subject with β thalassemia major. This vector has been modified to increase transduction efficacy without compromising safety. In vitro analyses indicated that the changes resulted in both increased vector titers (3 to 4 fold) and increased transduction efficacy (2 to 3 fold). An in vivo study in which 58 β-thalassemic mice were transplanted with vector- or mock-transduced syngenic bone marrow cells indicated sustained therapeutic efficacy. Secondary transplantations involving 108 recipients were performed to evaluate long-term safety. The six month study showed no hematological or biochemical toxicity. Integration site (IS) profile revealed an oligo/polyclonal hematopoietic reconstitution in the primary transplants and reduced clonality in secondary transplants. Tumor cells were detected in the secondary transplant mice in all treatment groups (including the control group), without statistical differences in the tumor incidence. Immunohistochemistry and quantitative PCR demonstrated that tumor cells were not derived from transduced donor cells. This comprehensive efficacy and safety data provided the basis for initiating two clinical trials with this second generation vector (BB305) in Europe and in the USA in patients with β-thalassemia major and sickle cell disease.
The tetracycline-controlled Tet-Off and Tet-On gene expression systems are used to regulate the activity of genes in eukaryotic cells in diverse settings, varying from basic biological research to biotechnology and gene therapy applications. These systems are based on regulatory elements that control the activity of the tetracycline-resistance operon in bacteria. The Tet-Off system allows silencing of gene expression by administration of tetracycline (Tc) or tetracycline-derivatives like doxycycline (dox), whereas the Tet-On system allows activation of gene expression by dox. Since the initial design and construction of the original Tet-system, these bacterium-derived systems have been significantly improved for their function in eukaryotic cells. We here review how a dox-controlled HIV-1 variant was designed and used to greatly improve the activity and dox-sensitivity of the rtTA transcriptional activator component of the Tet-On system. These optimized rtTA variants require less dox for activation, which will reduce side effects and allow gene control in tissues where a relatively low dox level can be reached, such as the brain.
Findings in the first clinical trial in which an adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector was introduced into the liver of human subjects highlighted an issue not previously identified in animal studies. Upon AAV gene transfer to liver, two subjects developed transient elevation of liver enzymes, likely as a consequence of immune rejection of transduced hepatocytes mediated by AAV capsid-specific CD8+ T cells. Studies in healthy donors showed that humans carry a population of antigen-specific memory CD8+ T cells probably arising from wild-type AAV infections. The hypothesis formulated at that time was that these cells expanded upon re-exposure to capsid, i.e. upon AAV-2 hepatic gene transfer, and cleared AAV epitope-bearing transduced hepatocytes. Other hypotheses have been formulated which include specific receptorbinding properties of AAV-2 capsid, presence of capsid-expressing DNA in AAV vector preparations, and expression of alternate open reading frames from the transgene; emerging data from clinical trials however fail to support these competing hypotheses. Possible solutions to the problem are discussed, including the administration of a short-term immunosuppression regimen concomitant with gene transfer, or the development of more efficient vectors that can be administered at lower doses. While more studies will be necessary to define mechanisms and risks associated with capsid-specific immune responses in humans, monitoring of these responses in clinical trials will be essential to achieving the goal of longterm therapeutic gene transfer in humans.
Lipoplexes and polyplexes, electrostatic complexes between a plasmid DNA and cationic lipids or polymers are chemical systems that are developed for gene delivery. Considerable efforts have been done to delineate the exact knowledge of their entry mechanisms and the intracellular routing of the plasmid DNA that are of major importance for the designing of these gene delivery systems. While the uptake of lipoplexes made with several types of cationic lipids proceeds mainly by the clathrin-dependent pathway, it appears that for polyplexes the uptake pathway is more dependent on the polymer and the cell types. So, after an overview of the current knowledge of different endocytic pathways, we present here a selection of current reports related to the entry mechanisms and intracellular routing of plasmid DNA complexed with select cationic polymers. The review includes the role of glycosaminoglycans, cell polarization and cell cycle in the polyplex uptake and their transfection efficiency. We also report current data showing that the insertion of specific κB motifs in the nucleic acid sequence provides an increase of the plasmid import into the nucleus. This has been demonstrated by fluorescence methods suitable to investigate the intracellular trafficking of pDNA. Overall, it appears that polyplex uptake proceeds both by the clathrin-dependent pathway and a clathrin-independent (cholesterol- dependent) pathway. These two entry mechanisms are not exclusive and can occur simultaneously in the same cell. Both of them lead to cell transfection but polyplexes still need improvements for clinical use.
Introduction: Transplantation of autologous mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) has been shown to attenuate renal injury and dysfunction in several animal models, and its efficacy is currently being tested in clinical trials for patients with renal disease. Accumulating evidence indicates that MSCs release extracellular vesicles (EVs) that deliver genes, microRNAs and proteins to recipient cells, acting as mediators of MSC paracrine actions. In this context, it is critical to characterize the MSC-derived EV cargo to elucidate their potential contribution to renal repair. In recent years, researchers have performed high-throughput sequencing and proteomic analysis to detect and identify genes, microRNAs, and proteins enriched in MSC-derived EVs. Conclusion: The present review summarizes the current knowledge of the MSC-derived EV secretome to shed light into the mechanisms mediating MSC renal repair, and discusses preclinical and clinical studies testing the efficacy of MSC-derived EVs for treating renal disease.
Promoting osteogenic differentiation and efficacious bone regeneration have the potential to revolutionize the treatment of orthopaedic and musculoskeletal disorders. Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) are bone marrow progenitor cells that have the capacity to differentiate along osteogenic, chondrogenic, myogenic, and adipogenic lineages. Differentiation along these lineages is a tightly controlled process that is in part regulated by the Bone Morphogenetic Proteins (BMPs). BMPs 2 and 7 have been approved for clinical use because their osteoinductive properties act as an adjunctive treatment to surgeries where bone healing is compromised. BMP-9 is one of the least studied BMPs, and recent in vitro and in vivo studies have identified BMP-9 as a potent inducer of osteogenic differentiation in MSCs. BMP-9 exhibits significant molecular cross-talk with the Wnt/ β-catenin and other signaling pathways, and adenoviral expression of BMP-9 in MSCs increases the expression of osteogenic markers and induces trabecular bone and osteiod matrix formation. Furthermore, BMP-9 has been shown to act synergistically in bone formation with other signaling pathways, including Wnt/ β-catenin, IGF, and retinoid signaling pathways. These results suggest that BMP-9 should be explored as an effective bone regeneration agent, especially in combination with adjuvant therapies, for clinical applications such as large segmental bony defects, non-union fractures, and/or spinal fusions.
Exosomes are 30 - 100 nm bodies secreted from almost all types of cells into the extracellular spaces. They enclose in their lumen active genetic information in the form of messenger RNA (mRNA), micro RNA (miRNA), DNA and active peptides that are representative of the parental cell and can be isolated from different body fluids. Exosomes can participate in inter-cellular communication by trafficking molecules to their target cells. Because they can stably carry cargo including miRNA, mRNA, and proteins and can pass through stringent biological barriers (e.g., blood brain barrier) without eliciting an immune response, they are considered as an ideal acellular vehicle for drug delivery. In this review, we describe the structure and biogenesis of exosomes and new directions related to their role in diagnosis and treatment of diseases, especially for cancer. We also discuss potential challenges associated with exosomes that should be addressed before exosome-based therapy can be applied to clinical settings.
At present, gene transfection insufficient efficiency is a major drawback of non-viral gene therapy. The 2 main types of delivery systems deployed in gene therapy are based on viral or non-viral gene carriers. Several non-viral modalities can transfer foreign genetic material into the human body. To do so, polycation-based gene delivery methods must achieve sufficient efficiency in the transportation of therapeutic genes across various extracellular and intracellular barriers. These barriers include interactions with blood components, vascular endothelial cells and uptake by the reticuloendothelial system. Furthermore, the degradation of therapeutic DNA by serum nucleases is a potential obstacle for functional delivery to target cells. Cationic polymers constitute one of the most promising approaches to the use of viral vectors for gene therapy. A better understanding of the mechanisms by which DNA can escape from endosomes and traffic to enter the nucleus has triggered new strategies of synthesis and has revitalized research into new polycation-based systems. The objective of this review is to address the state of the art in gene therapy with synthetic and natural polycations and the latest advances to improve gene transfer efficiency in cells
Gene electrotransfer is a powerful method of DNA delivery offering several medical applications, among the most promising of which are DNA vaccination and gene therapy for cancer treatment. Electroporation entails the application of electric fields to cells which then experience a local and transient change of membrane permeability. Although gene electrotransfer has been extensively studied in in vitro and in vivo environments, the mechanisms by which DNA enters and navigates through cells are not fully understood. Here we present a comprehensive review of the body of knowledge concerning gene electrotransfer that has been accumulated over the last three decades. For that purpose, after briefly reviewing the medical applications that gene electrotransfer can provide, we outline membrane electropermeabilization, a key process for the delivery of DNA and smaller molecules. Since gene electrotransfer is a multipart process, we proceed our review in describing step by step our current understanding, with particular emphasis on DNA internalization and intracellular trafficking. Finally, we turn our attention to in vivo testing and methodology for gene electrotransfer.
Preclinical and clinical tomographic imaging systems increasingly are being utilized for non-invasive imaging of reporter gene products to reveal the distribution of molecular therapeutics within living subjects. Reporter gene and probe combinations can be employed to monitor vectors for gene, viral, and cell-based therapies. There are several reporter systems available; however, those employing radionuclides for positron emission tomography (PET) or singlephoton emission computed tomography (SPECT) offer the highest sensitivity and the greatest promise for deep tissue imaging in humans. Within the category of radionuclide reporters, the thyroidal sodium iodide symporter (NIS) has emerged as one of the most promising for preclinical and translational research. NIS has been incorporated into a remarkable variety of viral and non-viral vectors in which its functionality is conveniently determined by in vitro iodide uptake assays prior to live animal imaging. This review on the NIS reporter will focus on 1) differences between endogenous NIS and heterologously-expressed NIS, 2) qualitative or comparative use of NIS as an imaging reporter in preclinical and translational gene therapy, oncolytic viral therapy, and cell trafficking research, and 3) use of NIS as an absolute quantitative reporter.
A prospective first-in-human Phase 1 CRISPR gene editing trial in the United States for patients with melanoma, synovial sarcoma, and multiple myeloma offers hope that gene editing tools may usefully treat human disease. An overarching ethical challenge with first-in-human Phase 1 clinical trials, however, is knowing when it is ethically acceptable to initiate such trials on the basis of safety and efficacy data obtained from pre-clinical studies. If the pre-clinical studies that inform trial design are themselves poorly designed – as a result of which the quality of pre-clinical evidence is deficient – then the ethical requirement of scientific validity for clinical research may not be satisfied. In turn, this could mean that the Phase 1 clinical trial will be unsafe and that trial participants will be exposed to risk for no potential benefit. To assist sponsors, researchers, clinical investigators and reviewers in deciding when it is ethically acceptable to initiate first-in-human Phase 1 CRISPR gene editing clinical trials, structured processes have been developed to assess and minimize translational distance between pre-clinical and clinical research. These processes draw attention to various features of internal validity, construct validity, and external validity. As well, the credibility of supporting evidence is to be critically assessed with particular attention to optimism bias, financial conflicts of interest and publication bias. We critically examine the pre-clinical evidence used to justify the first-inhuman Phase 1 CRISPR gene editing cancer trial in the United States using these tools. We conclude that the proposed trial cannot satisfy the ethical requirement of scientific validity because the supporting pre-clinical evidence used to inform trial design is deficient.
Advanced cardiac failure is a progressive intractable disease and is the main cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide. Since this pathology is represented by a definite decrease in cardiomyocyte number, supplementation of functional cardiomyocytes into the heart would hypothetically be an ideal therapeutic option. Recently, unlimited in vitro production of human functional cardiomyocytes was established by using induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology, which avoids the use of human embryos. A number of basic studies including ours have shown that transplantation of iPSCderived cardiomyocytes (iPSC-CMs) into the damaged heart leads to recovery of cardiac function, thereby establishing "proof-of-concept" of this iPSC-transplantation therapy. However, considering clinical application of this therapy, its feasibility, safety, and therapeutic efficacy need to be further investigated in the pre-clinical stage. This review summarizes up-to-date important topics related to safety and efficacy of iPSC-CMs transplantation therapy for cardiac disease and discusses the prospects for this treatment in clinical studies.
The development of custom-designed nucleases (CDNs), including zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) and transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs), has made it possible to perform precise genetic engineering in many cell types and species. More recently, clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated (Cas) system has been successfully employed for genome editing. These RNA-guided DNA endonucleases are shown to be more efficient and flexible than CDNs and hold great potential for applications in both biological studies and medicine. Here, we review the progress that has been made for all three genome editing technologies in modifying both cells and model organisms, compare important aspects of each approach, and summarize the applications of these tools in disease modeling and gene therapy. In the end, we discuss future prospects of the field.
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can be isolated from several tissues in the body, have the ability to selfrenewal, show immune suppressive properties and are multipotent, being able to generate various cell types. At present, due to their intrinsic characteristics, MSCs are considered very promising in the area of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. In this context, genetic modification can be a powerful tool to control the behavior and fate of these cells and be used in the design of new cellular therapies. Viral systems are very effective in the introduction of exogenous genes inside MSCs. However, the risks associated with their use are leading to an increasing search for non-viral approaches to attain the same purpose, even if MSCs have been shown to be more difficult to transfect in this way. In the past few years, progress was made in the development of chemical and physical methods for non-viral gene delivery. Herein, an overview of the application of those methods specifically to MSCs is given and their use in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine therapeutic strategies highlighted using the example of bone tissue. Key issues and future directions in non-viral gene delivery to MSCs are also critically addressed.
Recombinants based on poxviruses have been used extensively as gene delivery systems to study many biological functions of foreign genes and as vaccines against many pathogens, particularly in the veterinary field. Based on safety record, efficient expression and ability to trigger specific immune responses, two of the most promising poxvirus vectors for human use are the attenuated modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) and the Copenhagen derived NYVAC strains. Because of the scientific and clinical interest in these two vectors, here we review their biological characteristics, with emphasis on virus-host cell interactions, viral immunomodulators, gene expression profiling, virus distribution in animals, and application as vaccines against different pathogens and tumors.
There have been major changes since the incidents of leukemia development in X-SCID patients after the treatments using retroviral gene therapy. Due to the risk of oncogenesis caused by retroviral insertional activation of host genes, most of the efforts focused on the lentiviral therapies. However, a relative clonal dominance was detected in a patient with β-thalassemia Major, two years after the subject received genetically modified hematopoietic stem cells using lentiviral vectors. This disappointing result of the recent clinical trial using lentiviral vector tells us that the current and most advanced vector systems does not have enough safety. In this review, various safety features that have been tried for the retroviral gene therapy are introduced and the possible new ways of improvements are discussed. Additional feature of chromatin insulators, co-transduction of a suicidal gene under the control of an inducible promoter, conditional expression of the transgene only in appropriate target cells, targeted transduction, cell type-specific expression, targeted local administration, splitting of the viral genome, and site specific insertion of retroviral vector are discussed here.