Research ArticleGene Therapy

Gene Therapy for Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome—Long-Term Efficacy and Genotoxicity

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Science Translational Medicine  12 Mar 2014:
Vol. 6, Issue 227, pp. 227ra33
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3007280

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Taking the Sting Out of Gene Therapy

Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome (WAS) is a rare X-linked recessive disorder characterized by low platelet count, immune deficiency, autoimmunity, and high risk of cancer. WAS is primarily a disorder of blood cells, and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) has been the only hope of cure. However, HSCT is restricted to patients who can find matching donors. One way to overcome this limitation is through gene therapy that restores the function of the mutated protein in HSCs from the patient. Now, Braun et al. report correction of WAS protein (WASP) in 9 of 10 patients that underwent HSC gene therapy.

The authors used a γ-retroviral vector to correct WASP expression in autologous HSCs. After transfer to patients, these cells engrafted and WASP was expressed in lymphoid and myeloid cells and platelets in 9 of 10 patients. What’s more, this therapy caused either partial or complete resolution of symptoms. However, seven patients developed acute leukemia, and further analysis revealed genetic alterations such as chromosomal translocations. These studies suggest that with improved vector design, gene therapy may be feasible and effective for patient with WAS.

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