There is now conclusive evidence that gene therapy can lead to real clinical benefit. Initial enthusiasm has been muted by set-backs related to viral vectors including retroviral oncogenesis and adenoviral inflammatory response. Plasmid- mediated muscle-targeted gene transfer offers the potential of a cost-effective pharmaceutical grade therapy delivered by simple intramuscular injection without the need for anaesthetic, cell culture, transplantation or immunosuppression. This approach is particularly appropriate for long-term circulating therapeutic protein replacement currently requiring repeated injection therapy. Wide-ranging clinical applications include haemophilia, chronic anaemia, growth hormone deficiency and diabetes. Inadequate transgene expression, unregulated protein delivery and immune response have been major limiting factors. Recent innovations including in situ electroporation enabling sustained systemic protein delivery within the therapeutic range are reviewed. Pharmacological and physiological approaches to regulation are discussed in addition to the role of innate and humoral immunity. Translation of advances in all of these areas to clinical success will enable muscle-targeted gene therapy to capitalise on its inherent strengths and realise its long-standing promise.
Keywords: Diabetes, erythropoietin, haemophilia, furin, electroporation, lipoplex, transcriptional regulation, CpG
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