Latest developments in gene transfer technology: Achievements, perspectives, and controversies over therapeutic applications

Gaetano Romano, Pietro Micheli, Carmen Pacilio, Antonio Giordano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the last decade, more than 300 phase I and phase II gene-based clinical trials have been conducted worldwide for the treatment of cancer and monogenic disorders. Lately, these trials have been extented to the treatment of AIDS and, to a lesser extent, cardiovascular diseases. There are 27 currently active gene therapy protocols for the treatment of HIV-1 infection in the USA. Preclinical studies are currently in progress to evaluate the possibility of increasing the number of gene therapy clinical trials for cardiopathies, and of beginning new gene therapy programs for neurologic illnesses, autoimmuno diseases, allergies, regeneration of tissues, and to implement procedures of allogeneic tissues or cell transplantation. In addition, gene transfer technology has allowed for the development of innovative vaccine design, known as genetic immunization. This technique has already been applied in the AIDS vaccine programs in the USA. These programs aim to confer protective immunity against HIV-1 transmission to individuals who are at risk of infection. Research programs have also been considered to develop therapeutic vaccines for patients with AIDS and generate either preventive or therapeutic vaccines against malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis A, B and C viruses, influenza virus, La Crosse virus, and Ebola virus. The potential therapeutic applications of gene transfer technology are enormous. However, the effectiveness of gene therapy programs is still questioned. Furthermore, there is growing concern over the matter of safety of gene delivery and controversy has arisen over the proposal to begin in utero gene therapy clinical trials for the treatment of inherited genetic disorders. From this standpoint, despite the latest significant achievements reported in vector design, it is not possible to predict to what extent gene therapeutic interventions will be effective in patients, and in what time frame.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-39
Number of pages21
JournalStem Cells
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Clinical trials
  • Ex vivo gene transfer
  • Gene therapy
  • Genetic immunization
  • In vivo gene delivery systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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