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Semin Liver Dis. 1999;19(1):27-37.

Retroviral vectors for liver-directed gene therapy.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Genetics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York 10461, USA.


Retroviruses are popular gene therapy vectors because they stably integrate the DNA copy of their genome into the host chromosome during their replication cycle. The widely used murine retroviral vector systems have two components: the transfer vector for the transgene carries all the cis-acting elements necessary for the replication and efficient integration of the viral DNA; and the packaging cell line produces all the trans-acting proteins necessary for both structural and catalytic functions of the virus. Advances in design of retroviral vectors have resulted in greater degree of biosafety, expanded host range, and increased stability of the virus particles. Retroviral vectors have been widely used in the ex vivo gene therapy protocols to correct the liver diseases in a wide variety of species. In a limited number of applications, in vivo gene therapy has been achieved after the liver cells have been stimulated to regenerate. One major limitation of murine retroviral vectors is their inability to infect nondividing cells. This problem has been overcome by deriving vectors from lentiviruses (a class of retroviruses) that have the ability to infect both dividing and nondividing cells. The lentiviral vectors are derived from human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1). Initial studies using lentiviral vectors for gene delivery to the liver in vivo show promising results. A highly crippled version of lentivirus has been generated by using producer cells in which the trans-acting components are expressed by several different coding elements and vectors that incorporate features of self-inactivation. These improvements should ensure biosafety of lentiviruses and make them useful in efficient delivery of therapeutic genes to nondividing differentiated tissues such as the liver.

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