The insertion and expression of genes in the epidermis may have a variety of therapeutic uses, including the treatment of skin diseases. Here we show that when both human skin organ cultures and human skin grafts on immunocompromised mice are injected with naked DNA, the DNA is taken-up and genes are expressed in the epidermis in a manner similar to both pig skin injected in vivo and injected pig skin organ cultures. In contrast, DNA injected into mouse skin is expressed not just in the epidermis, but also in the dermis and underlying fat and muscle tissue, and is expressed at lower levels. These findings suggest that genes can be expressed in human skin, after injection of naked DNA, and indicate that pig skin is an appropriate model for the study of DNA uptake and gene expression in human skin. The organ cultures of human and pig skin may be useful in understanding how naked DNA is internalized and expressed after in vivo injections. Additionally, skin obtained from patients with skin disease may be studied as skin grafts and organ cultures to help optimize genetic approaches for the treatment of skin diseases prior to clinical trials, by determining if the injected gene can provide a therapeutic benefit.
U R Hengge, P S Walker, J C Vogel