Retroviral vectors have been used for several decades for the transfer of therapeutic genes to various cells or organs including the liver. Initial studies aimed at treating inherited liver deficiencies were carried out with murine oncoretroviral vectors either delivered directly to the organ or using an ex vivo strategy that entailed harvest of the hepatocytes, transduction during a culture phase and further reinfusion to the patient. However, although a clinical trial was performed in the early 1990s, a complete cure of animal models of metabolic diseases was rarely achieved. The advent of lentiviral vectors derived from HIV1 profoundly changed the field and this vector type now appears to be of the most attractive for liver directed gene therapy. Indeed, lentiviral vectors do not require complete cell division to transduce the target cells. There are however still bottlenecks that limit the clinical development of gene therapy using retroviral vectors. In the present review we will specifically focus on specific aspects such as the risk of insertional mutagenesis, the potential requirement of cell cycle activation to enhance transduction and the major issue of an immune response directed against the transgene as well as some specific aspects of ex vivo gene transfer. Finally we will briefly consider the future developments of these vectors made possible by the availability of new techniques in cell and molecular biology.
Keywords: Liver, Retroviral vectors, Moloney Murine Leukemia Virus, Lentivirus, inherited metabolic disease, hepatocytes, gene therapy, Immunomodulating agents, immunocompetent, bilirubin
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