Although many autoimmune disorders do not have a strong genetic basis, their treatment may nevertheless be improved by gene therapies. Most strategies seek to transfer genes encoding immunomodulatory products that will alter host immune responses in a beneficial manner. Used in this fashion, genes serve as biological delivery vehicles for the products they encode. By this means gene therapy overcomes obstacles to the targeted delivery of proteins and RNA, and improves their efficacy while providing a longer duration of effect, and, potentially, greater safety. Additional genetic strategies include DNA vaccination and the ablation of selected tissues and cell populations. There is considerable evidence from animal studies that gene therapies work: examples include the treatment of experimental models of rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and lupus. Pre-clinical success in treating animal models of rheumatoid arthritis has led to the first clinical trial of gene therapy for an autoimmune disease. In this Phase I study, a cDNA encoding the interleukin-1 receptor antagonist was transferred to the knuckle joints of patients with advanced rheumatoid arthritis. Two additional clinical trials are in progress. It is likely that gene therapy will provide effective new treatments for a wide range of autoimmune disorders.
- Dendritic cell
- Human trial