Gene therapy for chondral and osteochondral regeneration: is the future now?

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Gene therapy might represent a promising strategy for chondral and osteochondral defects repair by balancing the management of temporary joint mechanical incompetence with altered metabolic and inflammatory homeostasis. This review analysed preclinical and clinical studies on gene therapy for the repair of articular cartilage defects performed over the last 10 years, focussing on expression vectors (non-viral and viral), type of genes delivered and gene therapy procedures (direct or indirect). Plasmids (non-viral expression vectors) and adenovirus (viral vectors) were the most employed vectors in preclinical studies. Genes delivered encoded mainly for growth factors, followed by transcription factors, anti-inflammatory cytokines and, less frequently, by cell signalling proteins, matrix proteins and receptors. Direct injection of the expression vector was used less than indirect injection of cells, with or without scaffolds, transduced with genes of interest and then implanted into the lesion site. Clinical trials (phases I, II or III) on safety, biological activity, efficacy, toxicity or bio-distribution employed adenovirus viral vectors to deliver growth factors or anti-inflammatory cytokines, for the treatment of osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis, and tumour necrosis factor receptor or interferon for the treatment of inflammatory arthritis.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCellular and Molecular Life Sciences
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2017


  • Cartilage repair
  • Expression vectors
  • Gene therapy procedures
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Regenerative medicine


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