Developing protocols for recombinant adeno-associated virus-mediated gene therapy in space.

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With the advent of the era of International Space Station (ISS) and Mars exploration, it is important more than ever to develop means to cure genetic and acquired diseases, which include cancer and AIDS, for these diseases hamper human activities. Thus, our ultimate goal is to develop protocols for gene therapy, which are suitable to humans on the earth as well as in space. Specifically, we are trying to cure the hemoglobinopathies, beta-thalassemia (Cooley's anemia) and sickle cell anemia, by gene therapy. These well-characterized molecular diseases serve as models for developing ex vivo gene therapy, which would apply to other disorders as well. For example, the procedure may become directly relevant to treating astronauts for space-anemia, immune suppression and bone marrow derived tumors, e.g. leukemia. The adeno-associated virus serotype 2 (AAV2) is a non-pathogenic human parvovirus with broad host-range and tissue specificity. Exploiting these characteristics we have been developing protocols for recombinant AAV2 (rAAV)-based gene therapy. With the rAAV constructs and hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) culture systems in hand, we are currently attempting to cure the mouse model of beta-thalassemia [C57BL/6- Hbbth/Hbbth, Hb(d-minor)] by HSC transplantation (HST) as well as by gene therapy. This paper describes the current status of our rAAV-gene therapy research.

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