Preclinical and clinical advances in transposon-based gene therapy
Journal Contribution - Journal Article
Transposons derived from Sleeping Beauty (SB), piggyBac (PB), or Tol2 typically require cotransfection of transposon DNA with a transposase either as an expression plasmid or mRNA. Consequently, this results in genomic integration of the potentially therapeutic gene into chromosomes of the desired target cells, and thus conferring stable expression. Non-viral transfectionmethods are typically preferred to deliver the transposon components into the target cells. However, these methods do not match the efficacy typically attained with viral vectors and are sometimes associated with cellular toxicity evoked by the DNA itself. In recent years, the overall transposition efficacy has gradually increased by codon optimization of the transposase, generation of hyperactive transposases, and/or introduction of specific mutations in the transposon terminal repeats. Their versatility enabled the stable genetic engineering in many different primary cell types, including stem/progenitor cells and differentiated cell types. This prompted numerous preclinical proof-of-concept studies in disease models that demonstrated the potential of DNA transposons for ex vivo and in vivo gene therapy. One of the merits of transposon systems relates to their ability to deliver relatively large therapeutic transgenes that cannot readily be accommodated in viral vectors such as full-length dystrophin cDNA. These emerging insights paved the way toward the first transposon-based phase I/II clinical trials to treat hematologic cancer and other diseases. Though encouraging results were obtained, controlled pivotal clinical trials are needed to corroborate the efficacy and safety of transposon-based therapies.