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Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2008 Sep;28(9):1621-6. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.108.168369. Epub 2008 Jun 12.

Restoration of plasma von Willebrand factor deficiency is sufficient to correct thrombus formation after gene therapy for severe von Willebrand disease.

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  • 1Laboratory for Thrombosis Research, K.U. Leuven Campus Kortrijk, Belgium.



Gene therapy for severe von Willebrand disease (vWD) seems an interesting treatment alternative with long-term therapeutic potential. We investigated the feasibility of targeting the liver for ectopic expression of physiologically active von Willebrand factor (vWF).


The capacity of transgene-encoded murine vWF to restore vWF function was studied in a mouse model of severe vWD after liver-specific gene transfer by hydrodynamic injection. By using a hepatocyte-specific alpha1 antitrypsin promoter, a considerably higher and longer-lasting vWF expression was obtained when compared with a cytomegalovirus promoter, reaching maximum vWF plasma levels that are 10+/-1 times higher than the wild-type level. Liver-expressed vWF showed the full range of multimers, including the high molecular weight multimers, and restored factor VIII plasma levels, consistent with correction of the bleeding time 3 but not 7 days after gene transfer. Importantly, transgene encoded plasma vWF restored proper platelet adhesion and aggregation in a FeCl(3) induced thrombosis model.


High ectopic expression of transgene encoded plasma vWF can be obtained after gene transfer to the liver. Liver-expressed vWF was fully multimerized and able to restore proper platelet plug formation in severe vWD. The liver therefore seems an attractive target for gene therapy for severe vWD.

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