Autologous fibroblast implantation. Feasibility and potential problems in gene replacement therapy.
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Autologous implants of genetically modified fibroblasts may be an ideal approach to gene replacement therapy. However, primary fibroblasts have limited life span and their use for gene therapy is questionable. We have developed a rat model to evaluate the feasibility of this approach. Primary fibroblasts initiated from rat skin biopsies were transfected with plasmid DNA. The transkaryotic fibroblasts were implanted into the original rat donors. A plasmid-encoded gene product, human growth hormone, was detected in the donor rats' circulation but less than 1% of the expected amount was recovered. Implantation at intraperitoneal, intramuscular or subcutaneous sites were effective in delivering the novel gene product. Fluctuating levels of human growth hormone were detected for over 6 months but their determination was rendered unreliable due to interference by extremely high titers of antibodies developed against the human growth hormone. In some cases, the antibody titer continued rising for more than 6 months, indicative of the continued presence of the antigen. One of the recipients developed two intra-abdominal fibrosarcomas that were shown to be derived from the implanted cells. In conclusion, this model demonstrates that autologous fibroblast implantation is a feasible approach to delivering novel gene products lasting for several months. Strong and prolonged immuno-reaction against the gene product will occur if the recipient's immune system is naive to the replacement product, as would occur in patients with CRM- mutations. The potential for neoplastic development from the implanted fibroblasts should prompt further evaluation of the long-term safety in gene replacement therapy.
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