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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2005;1054:238-49.

Successful correction of the human Cooley's anemia beta-thalassemia major phenotype using a lentiviral vector flanked by the chicken hypersensitive site 4 chromatin insulator.

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Saban Research Institute, Division of Hematology-Oncology, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, Department of Pediatrics, Los Angeles, California 90027, USA.


beta-Thalassemias are the most common single-gene disorders and are potentially amenable to gene therapy. While retroviral vectors carrying the human beta-globin cassette were notoriously unstable and expressed poorly, considerable progress has now been made using lentiviral vectors (LVs), which stably transmit the beta-globin expression cassette. Mouse studies using LVs have shown correction of the beta-thalassemia-intermedia phenotype and a partial, variable correction of the mouse beta-thalassemia major phenotype, despite the use of beta-globin-hypersensitive sites that are known to result in position-independent effects. Our group used the alpha-globin-hypersensitive site in self-inactivating (SIN) LVs with long-term expression in secondary mice that resisted methylation-associated proviral silencing. However, these vectors also suffered from chromatin position effects. We therefore flanked a SIN-lentiviral vector carrying the human beta-globin expression cassette with a chromatin insulator and studied expression in bone marrow from four patients with transfusion-dependent human thalassemia major. We demonstrated normal levels of human beta-globin expression in erythroid cells produced in in vitro cultures for unilineage erythroid differentiation. There was restoration of effective erythropoiesis and reversal of the abnormally elevated apoptosis that characterizes beta-thalassemia. The gene-corrected human beta-thalassemia progenitor cells were transplanted into immune-deficient mice, where they underwent normal erythroid differentiation, expressed normal levels of human beta-globin, and displayed normal effective erythropoiesis 3-4 months after xenotransplantation. Variability of beta-globin expression in erythroid colonies derived in vitro or from xenograft bone marrow was similar to that seen in normal control subjects. Results show genetic correction of primitive human progenitor cells and normalization of the human thalassemia major phenotype.

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