Transplantation of genetically corrected autologous hematopoietic stem cells is an attractive approach for the cure of sickle-cell disease and β-thalassemia. Here, we infected human cord blood cells with a self-inactivating lentiviral vector encoding an anti-sickling βA-T87Q-globin transgene and analyzed the transduced progeny produced over a 6-month period after transplantation of the infected cells directly into sublethally irradiated NOD/LtSz-scid/scid mice. Approximately half of the human erythroid and myeloid progenitors regenerated in the mice containing the transgene, and erythroid cells derived in vitro from these in vivo–regenerated cells produced high levels of βA-T87Q-globin protein. Linker-mediated PCR analysis identified multiple transgene-positive clones in all mice analyzed with 2.1 ± 0.1 integrated proviral copies per cell. Genomic sequencing of vector-containing fragments showed that 86% of the proviral inserts had occurred within genes, including several genes implicated in human leukemia. These findings indicate effective transduction of very primitive human cord blood cells with a candidate therapeutic lentiviral vector resulting in the long-term and robust, erythroid-specific production of therapeutically relevant levels of β-globin protein. However, the frequency of proviral integration within genes that regulate hematopoiesis points to a need for additional safety modifications.
Suzan Imren, Mary E. Fabry, Karen A. Westerman, Robert Pawliuk, Patrick Tang, Patricia M. Rosten, Ronald L. Nagel, Philippe Leboulch, Connie J. Eaves, R. Keith Humphries