Radionuclide reporter gene imaging for cardiac gene therapy
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In the field of cardiac gene therapy, angiogenic gene therapy has been most extensively investigated. The first clinical trial of cardiac angiogenic gene therapy was reported in 1998, and at the peak, more than 20 clinical trial protocols were under evaluation. However, most trials have ceased owing to the lack of decisive proof of therapeutic effects and the potential risks of viral vectors. In order to further advance cardiac angiogenic gene therapy, remaining open issues need to be resolved: there needs to be improvement of gene transfer methods, regulation of gene expression, development of much safer vectors and optimisation of therapeutic genes. For these purposes, imaging of gene expression in living organisms is of great importance. In radionuclide reporter gene imaging, “reporter genes” transferred into cell nuclei encode for a protein that retains a complementary “reporter probe” of a positron or single-photon emitter; thus expression of the reporter genes can be imaged with positron emission tomography or single-photon emission computed tomography. Accordingly, in the setting of gene therapy, the location, magnitude and duration of the therapeutic gene co-expression with the reporter genes can be monitored non-invasively. In the near future, gene therapy may evolve into combination therapy with stem/progenitor cell transplantation, so-called cell-based gene therapy or gene-modified cell therapy.
Radionuclide reporter gene imaging is now expected to contribute in providing evidence on the usefulness of this novel therapeutic approach, as well as in investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying neovascularisation and safety issues relevant to further progress in conventional gene therapy.