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      Gene Therapy in the Neuroendocrine System: Its Implementation in Experimental Models Using Viral Vectors

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          Gene therapy, the transfer of genetic material for therapeutic purposes, has undergone an explosive development in the last few years. Within this context, development of gene therapy approaches for the neuroendocrine system, while incipient, has already generated a core of results which emerge as a promising area of research in neuroendocrinology. The present review presents a brief description of the viral vector-based gene delivery systems being currently used in neuroendocrinology, namely the adenoviral and herpes simplex type-1 (HSV-1)-derived vector systems, as well as an updated account of neuroendocrine pathologies for which gene therapy approaches in animal models are being implemented is provided. Current research efforts include treatment of experimental pituitary tumors by adenoviral vector-mediated transfer of the suicide gene for the HSV-1 thymidine kinase, which converts the prodrug ganciclovir into a toxic metabolite. An adenoviral vector encoding the human retinoblastoma suppressor oncogene has also been successfully used to rescue the phenotype of spontaneous pituitary tumors of the pars intermedia in mice. At the hypothalamic level, an adenovirus harboring the cDNA for arginine vasopressin has been used in Brattleboro rats to correct diabetes insipidus for several weeks. The last part of the review outlines the potential of gene therapy to correct age-associated neurodegenerative processes at the neuroendocrine level. Although effective implementation of gene therapy strategies still faces significant technical obstacles, these are likely to be progressively overcome as gene delivery systems are being improved.

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          Most cited references 11

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          Isolation of a common receptor for Coxsackie B viruses and adenoviruses 2 and 5.

          A complementary DNA clone has been isolated that encodes a coxsackievirus and adenovirus receptor (CAR). When transfected with CAR complementary DNA, nonpermissive hamster cells became susceptible to coxsackie B virus attachment and infection. Furthermore, consistent with previous studies demonstrating that adenovirus infection depends on attachment of a viral fiber to the target cell, CAR-transfected hamster cells bound adenovirus in a fiber-dependent fashion and showed a 100-fold increase in susceptibility to virus-mediated gene transfer. Identification of CAR as a receptor for these two unrelated and structurally distinct viral pathogens is important for understanding viral pathogenesis and has implications for therapeutic gene delivery with adenovirus vectors.
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            A helper-dependent adenovirus vector system: removal of helper virus by Cre-mediated excision of the viral packaging signal.

            Adenoviruses are attractive vectors for the delivery of foreign genes into mammalian cells for gene therapy. However, current vectors retain many viral genes that, when expressed at low levels, contribute to the induction of a host immune response against transduced cells. We have developed a helper-dependent packaging system for production of vectors that have large regions of the genome deleted. Helper viruses were constructed with packaging signals flanked by loxP sites so that in 293 cells that stably express the Cre recombinase (293Cre), the packaging signal was efficiently excised, rendering the helper virus genome unpackageable. However, the helper virus DNA was replicated at normal levels and could thus express all of the functions necessary in trans for replication and packaging of a vector genome containing the appropriate cis-acting elements. Serial passage of the vector in helper virus-infected 293Cre cells resulted in an approximately 10-fold increase in vector titer per passage. The vector could be partially separated from residual helper virus by cesium chloride buoyant density centrifugation. Large scale preparations of vector yielded semi-purified stocks of approximately 10(10) transducing virions/ml, with < 0.01% contamination by the E1-deleted helper virus. This system should have great utility for the generation of adenovirus-based vectors with increased cloning capacity, increased safety and reduced immunogenicity.
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              A comparison of cabergoline and bromocriptine in the treatment of hyperprolactinemic amenorrhea. Cabergoline Comparative Study Group.

              Cabergoline is a long-acting dopamine-agonist drug that suppresses prolactin secretion and restores gonadal function in women with hyperprolactinemic amenorrhea. We designed a study to compare its safety and efficacy with those of bromocriptine, which has been the standard therapy. A total of 459 women with hyperprolactinemic amenorrhea were treated with either cabergoline (0.5 to 1.0 mg twice weekly) or bromocriptine (2.5 to 5.0 mg twice daily), administered in a double-blind fashion for 8 weeks and subsequently in an open fashion for 16 weeks, during which adjustments in the dose were made according to the response. Of the 459 women, 279 had microprolactinomas, 3 had macroprolactinomas, 1 had a craniopharyngioma, 167 had idiopathic hyperprolactinemia, and the remainder had an empty sella. Clinical and biochemical status was assessed at 2-week intervals for 8 weeks and monthly thereafter for a total of 6 months, with an additional assessment at 14 weeks. Stable normoprolactinemia was achieved in 186 of the 223 women treated with cabergoline (83 percent) and 138 of the 236 women treated with bromocriptine (59 percent, P < 0.001). Seventy-two percent of the women treated with cabergoline and 52 percent of those treated with bromocriptine had ovulatory cycles or became pregnant during treatment (P < 0.001). Amenorrhea persisted in 7 percent of the cabergoline-treated women and 16 percent of the bromocriptine-treated women. Adverse effects were recorded in 68 percent of the women taking cabergoline and 78 percent of those taking bromocriptine (P = 0.03); 3 percent discontinued taking cabergoline, and 12 percent stopped taking bromocriptine (P < 0.001) because of drug intolerance. Gastrointestinal symptoms were significantly less frequent, less severe, and shorter-lived in the women treated with cabergoline. Cabergoline is more effective and better tolerated than bromocriptine in women with hyperprolactinemic amenorrhea.

                Author and article information

                S. Karger AG
                February 2001
                23 February 2001
                : 73
                : 2
                : 75-83
                Institute for Biochemical Research of La Plata (INIBIOLP) – Histology ‘B’, Faculty of Medicine, National University of La Plata, Argentina
                54623 Neuroendocrinology 2001;73:75–83
                © 2001 S. Karger AG, Basel

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                Page count
                Figures: 2, Tables: 1, References: 43, Pages: 9


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