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April 07, 2009

Gene therapy appears safe to regenerate gum tissue




The figures show microcomputed tomographic images of regenerated periodontium (tooth supporting structures) following delivery of PDGF genes.

Scientists at the University of Michigan have developed a method of gene delivery that appears safe for regenerating tooth-supporting gum tissue—a discovery that assuages one of the biggest safety concerns surrounding gene therapy research and tissue engineering.





Gene therapy is an accepted, viable therapeutic concept, but safety is a major hurdle, said William Giannobile, professor at the U-M School of Dentistry. The most notable incident highlighting the safety concerns of gene therapy research and treatment occurred several years ago when a teenager died when given the adenovirus during a gene therapy clinical trial at the University of Pennsylvania.

The U-M therapy also uses the adenovirus, Giannobile said, but the big difference in the U-M approach lies in the local application and much lower dose. Instead of injecting the genes into the blood vessels, where they can then travel through the bloodstream and result in unexpected and sometimes fatal reactions, U-M scientists put the genes on a localized area, directly on the tissue during surgery much like a paste.

The next step for the U-M team is to use the new gene delivery approach in human clinical trials, Giannobile said. The planning stages for these studies will commence in the next year.

The paper, called "Adenovirus Encoding Human Platelet-Derived Growth Factor-B Delivered to Alveolar Bone Defects Exhibits Safety and Biodistribution Profiles Favorable for Clinical Use," is partially available online. It's scheduled to appear in the May issue of the journal Human Gene Therapy.


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