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Cell Transplant. 1993 Sep-Oct;2(5):381-400; discussion 407-10.

Cell transplantation in liver-directed gene therapy.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor 48109.


Somatic cell gene therapy is a new field of biomedical research that encompasses a variety of traditional basic research and clinical disciplines. This new approach to therapeutics has the potential to prevent, treat, or cure a variety of inherited and acquired diseases. Two divergent strategies of hepatocyte transplantation are being employed in animal models and clinical trials in an attempt to correct genetic deficiencies. Allogeneic hepatocyte transplantation has two main advantages over autologous cell transplantation. First, invasive surgical procedures are not required in the recipient. Second, allogeneic cells can be administered repetitively, so that multiple harvests are not necessary. The major drawbacks to allogeneic hepatocyte transplants are rejection and the risks of immunosuppression. Although there is no clinical experience with the treatment of genetic disease by allogeneic hepatocyte transplantation, a variety of animal models have been characterized, including the Gunn rat (UDP-glucuronosyl transferase deficient), the Nagase analbuminemic rat, and the Watanabe heritable hyperlipidemic rabbit (LDL receptor deficient). The use of genetically corrected autologous cells represents a different and more elegant approach to the correction of inherited disease. A segment of liver is harvested from the affected individual. Recombinant retroviruses are used to transduce normal genes--with a variety of promoter/enhancer constructs--into the patients own hepatocytes. The genetically corrected hepatocytes are then transplanted back into the patient. This approach, known as ex vivo gene therapy, eliminates the risk of rejection and the need for immunosuppression. The safety and efficacy of this approach has been proven in a variety of preclinical animals models, including Watanabe rabbits, dogs, and Papio spp. A clinical trial for the treatment of familial hypercholesterolemia is currently in progress. A number of approaches for the reintroduction of hepatocytes into the recipient have been proposed, including catheter-mediated delivery into the inferior mesenteric vein, the umbilical vein, or into the spleen. Candidate diseases, which are likely to result in the first clinical trials include familial hypercholesterolemia, ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency, Crigler-Najjar syndrome, alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency, and phenylketonuria.

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