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Blood. 1997 May 1;89(9):3412-20.

Detection and isolation of gene-corrected cells in Gaucher disease via a fluorescence-activated cell sorter assay for lysosomal glucocerebrosidase activity.

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Department of Genetics, Stanford University Medical School, CA, USA.


Gaucher disease type 1 results from the accumulation of glucocerebroside in macrophages of the reticuloendothelial system, as a consequence of a deficiency in glucocerebrosidase (GC) activity. Recent improvements in the methodologies for introducing foreign genes into bone marrow stem cells have prompted several groups to test the efficacy of gene transfer therapy as a curative treatment for Gaucher disease. Limitations of this approach include the potential for insufficient engraftment of gene-corrected cells and incomplete transduction of hematopoietic stem cells using retroviral gene transfer. Overcoming these obstacles may be critical in the case of treatment for Gaucher disease type 1, because GC transduced cells have not been shown to have a growth advantage over noncorrected cells. Here, we describe the development and application of a novel, fluorescence-activated cell sorter based assay that directly quantitates GC activity at the single cell level. In a test of this application, fibroblasts from a Gaucher patient were transduced, and high expressing cells sorted based on GC activity. Reanalysis of cultured sorted fibroblasts reveals that these cells maintain high levels of enzymatic activity, compared with the heterogeneous population from which they were sorted. The assay is sufficiently sensitive to distinguish GC activity found in Gaucher patient monocytes from that in normal controls. Furthermore, preliminary results indicate that increased GC activity can be detected in transduced, CD34+ enriched peripheral blood mononuclear cells isolated from a Gaucher patient. This method should be a useful addition to current gene therapy protocols as a means to quantitatively assess gene correction of relevant cell populations and potentially purify transduced cells for transplantation.

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