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Publication Detail
Fetal and neonatal gene therapy: benefits and pitfalls
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Publication Sub Type:
    JOUR
  • Authors:
    Waddington SN, Kennea NL, Buckley SMK, Gregory LG, Themis M, Coutelle C
  • Publication date:
    2004
  • Pagination:
    92, 97
  • Volume:
    11
  • Issue:
    S1
  • Notes:
    Current strategies to gene therapy of monogenetic diseases into mature organisms are confronted with several problems including the following: 1) The underlying genetic defect may have already caused irreversible pathological changes; 2) The level of sufficient protein expression to ameliorate or prevent the disease requires prohibitively large amounts of gene delivery vector; 3) Adult tissues may be poorly infected by conventional vector systems dependent upon cellular proliferation for optimal infection e.g. oncoretrovirus vectors; 4) Immune responses, either pre-existing or developing following vector delivery, may rapidly eliminate transgenic protein expression and prevent future effective intervention. Early gene transfer, in the neonatal or even fetal period, may overcome some or all of these obstacles. The mammalian fetus enjoys a uniquely protected environment in the womb, bathed in a biochemically and physically supportive fluid devoid of myriad extra-uterine pathogens. Strong physical and chemical barriers to infection might, perhaps, impede the frenetic cell division. The physical support, and the biochemical support provided by the fetal-maternal placental interface may, therefore, minimise the onset of genetic diseases manifest early in life. The fetal organism must prepare itself for birth, but lacking a mature adaptive immune system, may depend upon more primordial immune defences. It is the nature of these defences, and the vulnerabilities they protect, which are poorly understood in the context of gene therapy and which might provide useful information for approaches to gene therapy in the young, as well as perhaps the mature organism.
Abstract
Current strategies to gene therapy of monogenetic diseases into mature organisms are confronted with several problems including the following: 1) The underlying genetic defect may have already caused irreversible pathological changes; 2) The level of sufficient protein expression to ameliorate or prevent the disease requires prohibitively large amounts of gene delivery vector; 3) Adult tissues may be poorly infected by conventional vector systems dependent upon cellular proliferation for optimal infection e.g. oncoretrovirus vectors; 4) Immune responses, either pre-existing or developing following vector delivery, may rapidly eliminate transgenic protein expression and prevent future effective intervention. Early gene transfer, in the neonatal or even fetal period, may overcome some or all of these obstacles. The mammalian fetus enjoys a uniquely protected environment in the womb, bathed in a biochemically and physically supportive fluid devoid of myriad extra-uterine pathogens. Strong physical and chemical barriers to infection might, perhaps, impede the frenetic cell division. The physical support, and the biochemical support provided by the fetal-maternal placental interface may, therefore, minimise the onset of genetic diseases manifest early in life. The fetal organism must prepare itself for birth, but lacking a mature adaptive immune system, may depend upon more primordial immune defences. It is the nature of these defences, and the vulnerabilities they protect, which are poorly understood in the context of gene therapy and which might provide useful information for approaches to gene therapy in the young, as well as perhaps the mature organism.
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