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Improvements in Gene Therapy

Averting the Immune Response to Adenoviral Vectors

  • Gene Therapy
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Abstract

Gene therapy is an interesting approach for the correction of defective genes, the treatment of cancer and the introduction of immunomodulatory genes. Various techniques for gene transfer into cells or tissues have been developed within the last decade; these can be divided generally into viral and nonviral gene transfer systems. Nonviral techniques include the liposome- or gene gun-mediated introduction of therapeutic genes; however, the efficiency of gene transfer by these applications is still very low. In contrast, viruses have optimised their strategies for efficient infection of virtually any cell type in a mammalian organism. The genetic modification of genomes from different virus families (Adenoviridae, Retroviridae, Herpesviridae) led to the development of gene therapy vectors with a similar capacity to infect cells or tissues as that of wild type viruses. In contrast to wild type viruses, gene therapy vectors are engineered to transfer therapeutic genes into the target cells or tissues. In addition, they have lost their capacity for replication in target cells, because of the removal of essential genes, which allows replication only in specialised packaging cell lines engineered for the production of recombinant viruses.

Despite considerable progress over the past decade in the generation of gene transfer systems with reduced immunogenic properties, the remaining immunogenicity of many gene therapy vectors is still the major hurdle, preventing their frequent application in clinical trials.

Recombinant adenoviruses have been shown to be promising vectors for gene therapy, since they are able to transduce both quiescent and proliferating cells very efficiently. However, a major disadvantage of adenoviral vectors lies in the activation of both the innate and adaptive parts of the recipient’s immune system when applied in vivo. The inflammatory responses induced by adenovirus particles can be very strong and can be fatal in patients treated with these adenoviral constructs. Therefore, many experiments have been performed in the effort to prevent these inflammatory responses mediated by adenoviral particles. The depletion of cell populations responsible for these inflammatory responses as well as the application of immunosuppressive drugs have been investigated. Moreover, the generation of less immunogenic adenoviral vectors by further genetic modification within the adenoviral genome has led to vectors with reduced immunogenic properties. Both strategies to reduce inflammatory responses against adenoviral particles are discussed in this review.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Dr Alexander Flügel, Max-Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Martinsried, Germany, Grit SchrÖder, Institute of Medical Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Rostock and Dr Saleh Ibrahim, Institute of Immunology, University of Rostock, Germany for critically reading the manuscript. This work has been funded in part by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) Vo489/6-1.

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Ritter, T., Lehmann, M. & Volk, HD. Improvements in Gene Therapy. BioDrugs 16, 3–10 (2002). https://doi.org/10.2165/00063030-200216010-00001

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