Insertional mutagenesis by retroviral vectors has emerged as a serious impediment to the widespread application of hematopoietic stem cell gene transfer for the treatment of hematologic diseases. Here we report the development of a 77-base pair element, FII/BEAD-A (FB), which contains the minimal enhancer-blocking components of the chicken beta-globin 5'HS4 insulator and a homologous region from the human T-cell receptor alpha/delta BEAD-1 insulator. With a new flow cytometry-based assay, we show that the FB element is as effective in enhancer-blocking activity as the prototypical 1.2-kilobase 5'HS4 insulator fragment. When incorporated into the residual U3 region of the 3' long terminal repeat (LTR) of a self-inactivating (SIN) gammaretroviral vector, the FB element was stably transferred to the 5' LTR during reverse transcription, flanking the integrated transgene expression cassette. Notably, using a recently established in vitro insertional mutagenesis assay involving primary murine hematopoietic cells, we found that SIN gammaretroviral vectors, as well as SIN lentiviral vectors, containing the FB element exhibited greatly reduced transforming potential-to background levels under the experimental conditions used-compared with their unshielded counterparts. These results suggest that the FB element-mediated enhancer-blocking modification is a promising approach to dramatically improve the safety of retroviral vectors for therapeutic gene transfer.