Prospects for insulin delivery by ex-vivo somatic cell gene therapy
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The principle of insulin delivery by ex-vivo somatic cell gene therapy involves the removal of non-B-cell somatic cells (e.g. fibroblasts) from a diabetic patient, and genetically altering them in vitro to produce and secrete insulin. The cells can be grown in culture and returned to the donor as a source of insulin replacement. Cells modified in this way could be evaluated before implantation, and reserve stocks could be cryopreserved. By using the patient’s own cells, the procedure should obviate the need for immunosuppression and overcome the problem of tissue supply, while avoiding a recurrence of cell destruction. Ex-vivo somatic cell gene therapy requires an accessible and robust cell type that is amenable to multiple transfections and subject to controlled proliferation. Special problems associated with the use of non-B-cell somatic cells include the processing of proinsulin to insulin, and the conferment of sensitivity to glucose-stimulated proinsulin biosynthesis and regulated insulin release. Preliminary studies using fibroblasts, pituitary cells, kidney (COS) cells and ovarian (CHO) cells suggest that these challenges could be met, and that ex-vivo somatic cell gene therapy offers a feasible approach to insulin replacement therapy.
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