Gene Therapy for Human Hemoglobinopathies

Christopher E. Walsh, Johnson M. Liu, Jeffery L. Miller, Arthur W. Nienhuis, Richard Jude Samulski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Gene transfer of human globin genes into human pluripotent stem cells via viral vectors may soon be realized. The high level of globin gene expression believed to be required for the treatment of severe hemoglobinopathies necessitated the inclusion of cisacting sequences (LCR). Retroviral vectors containing the LCR elements are prone to rearrangement, low titer, and poor expression. Inclusion of a “minilocus” containing four HS sites linked to a globin gene resulted in higher expression in transplanted mice, but rearrangement of the provirus still occurs, and it is unclear what significance these experiments have with regard to human marrow stem cell transduction. Recombinant AAV is among the newest of genetic transfer vectors. This once obscure virus possesses unique properties that distinguish it from all other vectors. Its major advantage is the lack of pathogenicity in humans. Wild-type AAV has the unusual ability to selectively integrate into the mammalian genome at a specific region, thus reducing the concern for genomic disruption and insertional mutagenesis. The ability of AAV to carry regulatory elements without interference from the viral template may enable greater control of transferred gene expression. Disadvantages currently include the inferior packaging systems which yield low numbers of recombinant virions which are contaminated with wild-type adenovirus. The small AAV genome that can be packaged (5 kb) rules out its use for transfer of larger genes. Recombinant AAV viruses do not appear to demonstrate the same site-specific genomic integration as wild-type viruses. Elucidation of the mechanism of site-specific integration should prove useful in the development of safe vectors for gene transfer as well as provide insight into the nature of DNA recombination in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-300
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Biology and Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1993
Externally publishedYes


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