Using an innovative gene therapy technique called genome editing that hones in on the precise location of mutated DNA, scientists have treated the blood clotting disorder hemophilia in mice. This is the first time that genome editing, which precisely targets and repairs a genetic defect, has been done in a living animal and achieved clinically meaningful results.
As such, it represents an important step forward in the decades-long scientific progression of gene therapy—developing treatments by correcting a disease-causing DNA sequence. In this new study, researchers used two versions of a genetically engineered virus (adeno-associated virus, or AAV)—one carrying enzymes that cut DNA in an exact spot and one carrying a replacement gene to be copied into the DNA sequence. All of this occurred in the liver cells of living mice.
"Our research raises the possibility that genome editing can correct a genetic defect at a clinically meaningful level after in vivo delivery of the zinc finger nucleases," said the study leader, Katherine A. High, M.D., a hematologist and gene therapy expert at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. High, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, directs the Center for Cellular and Molecular Therapeutics at Children's Hospital, and has investigated gene therapy for hemophilia for more than a decade.
The study appeared online today in Nature.
High's research, a collaboration with scientists at Sangamo BioSciences, Inc., makes use of genetically engineered enzymes called zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) that act as molecular word processors, editing mutated sequences of DNA. Scientists have learned how to design ZFNs custom-matched to a specific gene location. ZFNs specific for the factor 9 gene (F9) were designed and used in conjunction with a DNA sequence that restored normal gene function lost in hemophilia.
By precisely targeting a specific site along a chromosome, ZFNs have an advantage over conventional gene therapy techniques that may randomly deliver a replacement gene into an unfavorable location, bypassing normal biological regulatory components controlling the gene. This imprecise targeting carries a risk of "insertional mutagenesis," in which the corrective gene causes an unexpected alteration, such as triggering leukemia.
In hemophilia, an inherited single-gene mutation impairs a patient's ability to produce a blood-clotting protein, leading to spontaneous, sometimes life-threatening bleeding episodes. The two major forms of the disease, which occurs almost solely in males, are hemophilia A and hemophilia B, caused respectively by a lack of clotting factor VIII and clotting factor IX. Patients are treated with frequent infusions of clotting proteins, which are expensive and sometimes stimulate the body to produce antibodies that negate the benefits of treatment.
In the current study, the researchers used genetic engineering to produce mice with hemophilia B, modeling the disease in people. Before treatment, the mice had no detectable levels of clotting factor IX.
Previous studies by other researchers had shown that ZFNs could accomplish genome editing in cultured stem cells that were then injected into mice to treat sickle cell disease. However, this ex vivo approach is not feasible for many human genetic diseases, which affect whole organ systems. Therefore the current study tested whether genome editing was effective when directly performed in vivo (in a living animal).
High and colleagues designed two versions of a vector, or gene delivery vehicle, using adeno-associated virus (AAV). One AAV vector carried ZFNs to perform the editing, the other delivered a correctly functioning version of the F9 gene. Because different mutations in the same gene may cause hemophilia, the process replaced seven different coding sequences, covering 95 percent of the disease-carrying mutations in hemophilia B.
The researchers injected mice with the gene therapy vector, which was designed to travel to the liver—where clotting factors are produced. The mice that received the ZFN/gene combination then produced enough clotting factor to reduce blood clotting times to nearly normal levels. Control mice receiving vectors lacking the ZFNs or the F9 minigene had no significant improvements in circulating factor or in clotting times.
The improvements persisted over the eight months of the study, and showed no toxic effects on growth, weight gain or liver function, clues that the treatment was well-tolerated.
"We established a proof of concept that we can perform genome editing in vivo, to produce stable and clinically meaningful results," said High. "We need to perform further studies to translate this finding into safe, effective treatments for hemophilia and other single-gene diseases in humans, but this is a promising strategy for gene therapy." She continued, "The clinical translation of genetic therapies from mouse models to humans has been a lengthy process, nearly two decades, but we are now seeing positive results in a range of diseases from inherited retinal disorders to hemophilia. In vivo genome editing will require time to mature as a therapeutic, but it represents the next goal in the development of genetic therapies."
Support for this work came from the National Institutes of Health and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. High's co-authors were from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania, and Sangamo BioSciences, Inc. of Richmond, Calif.
"In vivo genome editing restores hemostasis in a mouse model of hemophilia," Nature, published online June 26, 2011. doi: 10.1038/nature10177
About the Center for Cellular and Molecular Therapeutics (CCMT) at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the CCMT, directed by Dr. Katherine High, have pioneered the development of clinically promising AAV-mediated gene therapies. Dr. High and her colleagues conducted the first trial of recombinant AAV delivered to skeletal muscle, the first trial of AAV directed to liver, and the first U.S. trial of AAV delivered to the subretinal space. The latter trial, for congenital blindness, was also the first trial of gene therapy for a nonfatal disorder that was allowed to include pediatric subjects.
About The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was founded in 1855 as the nation's first pediatric hospital. Through its long-standing commitment to providing exceptional patient care, training new generations of pediatric healthcare professionals and pioneering major research initiatives, Children's Hospital has fostered many discoveries that have benefited children worldwide. Its pediatric research program is among the largest in the country, ranking third in National Institutes of Health funding. In addition, its unique family-centered care and public service programs have brought the 516-bed hospital recognition as a leading advocate for children and adolescents. For more information, visit http://www.chop.edu.
John Ascenzi | EurekAlert!
Gold nanoclusters: new frontier for developing medication for treatment of Alzheimer's disease
17.02.2020 | Science China Press
Catalyst deposition on fragile chips
17.02.2020 | Ruhr-University Bochum
Most natural and artificial surfaces are rough: metals and even glasses that appear smooth to the naked eye can look like jagged mountain ranges under the microscope. There is currently no uniform theory about the origin of this roughness despite it being observed on all scales, from the atomic to the tectonic. Scientists suspect that the rough surface is formed by irreversible plastic deformation that occurs in many processes of mechanical machining of components such as milling.
Prof. Dr. Lars Pastewka from the Simulation group at the Department of Microsystems Engineering at the University of Freiburg and his team have simulated such...
Investigation of the temperature dependence of the skyrmion Hall effect reveals further insights into possible new data storage devices
The joint research project of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that had previously demonstrated...
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, recently completed a 5-year research project looking at how to make fibre optic communications systems more energy efficient. Among their proposals are smart, error-correcting data chip circuits, which they refined to be 10 times less energy consumptive. The project has yielded several scientific articles, in publications including Nature Communications.
Streaming films and music, scrolling through social media, and using cloud-based storage services are everyday activities now.
After helping develop a new approach for organic synthesis -- carbon-hydrogen functionalization -- scientists at Emory University are now showing how this approach may apply to drug discovery. Nature Catalysis published their most recent work -- a streamlined process for making a three-dimensional scaffold of keen interest to the pharmaceutical industry.
"Our tools open up whole new chemical space for potential drug targets," says Huw Davies, Emory professor of organic chemistry and senior author of the paper.
Superconductivity approaching room temperature may be possible in hydrogen-rich compounds at much lower pressures than previously expected
Reaching room-temperature superconductivity is one of the biggest dreams in physics. Its discovery would bring a technological revolution by providing...
12.02.2020 | Event News
16.01.2020 | Event News
15.01.2020 | Event News
17.02.2020 | Life Sciences
17.02.2020 | Information Technology
17.02.2020 | Life Sciences