As a novel form of molecular medicine based on direct actions over the genes, targeted gene repair has raised consideration recently above classical gene therapy strategies based on genetic augmentation or complementation. Targeted gene repair relies on the local induction of the cells endogenous DNA repair mechanisms to attain a therapeutic gene conversion event within the genome of the diseased cell. Successful repair has been achieved both in vitro and in vivo with a variety of corrective molecules ranging from oligonucleotides (chimeraplasts, modified single-stranded oligonucleotides, triplex-forming oligonucleotides), to small DNA fragments (small fragment homologous replacement (SFHR)), and even viral vectors (AAV-based). However, controversy on the consistency and lack of reproducibility of early experiments regarding frequencies and persistence of targeted gene repair, particularly for chimeraplasty, has flecked the field. Nevertheless, several hurdles such as inefficient nuclear uptake of the corrective molecules, and misleading assessment of targeted repair frequencies have been identified and are being addressed. One of the key bottlenecks for exploiting the overall potential of the different targeted gene repair modalities is the lack of a detailed knowledge of their mechanisms of action at the molecular level. Several studies are now focusing on the assessment of the specific repair pathway(s) involved (homologous recombination, mismatch repair, etc.), devising additional strategies to increase their activity (using chemotherapeutic drugs, chimeric nucleases, etc.), and assessing the influence of the cell cycle in the regulation of the repair process. Until therapeutic correction frequencies for single gene disorders are reached both in cellular and animal models, precision and undesired side effects of this promising gene therapy approach will not be thoroughly evaluated.
Keywords: Chimeraplasts, single-stranded oligonucleotides, small DNA fragments, AAV vectors, chimeric nucleases, nuclear targeting, homologous recombination, mismatch repair
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