Research ArticleGene Therapy

Overcoming Preexisting Humoral Immunity to AAV Using Capsid Decoys

Science Translational Medicine  17 Jul 2013:
Vol. 5, Issue 194, pp. 194ra92
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3005795

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A Slight of Hand for Gene Therapy

Gene therapy has been quite successful—in animal models. But when it comes to translating gene therapy to humans, there have only been a few shining successes. One limiting factor has been the vectors used. Adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors are safe, noninvasive, and potentially effective; however, people who have been previously exposed to AAV have preexisting neutralizing antibodies that block gene delivery. Now, Mingozzi et al. trick these antibodies into binding empty viral capsid, overcoming their inhibitory effects.

The authors hypothesized that introducing empty capsids along with the gene therapy vector would titrate out the neutralizing antibody response to AAV, allowing for successful gene therapy even in the presence of preexisting neutralizing antibodies. They found that varying the ratio of empty capsid to gene therapy vector could successfully inhibit the neutralizing antibody response in both human serum and a mouse model by serving as a decoy for antibody binding. The authors then mutated the receptor binding site of their capsid so that it could bind the neutralizing antibody but not target cells, further increasing the safety profile of this approach. These capsid decoys worked in a dose-dependent manner and were successful even with high antibody titers. What’s more, they were safe and effective in rhesus macaques. Although this approach remains to be tested in humans, tricking neutralizing antibodies with decoys may be the next step in advancing gene therapy in the clinic.