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Cystinosis: From the gene identification to the first gene therapy clinical trial

  • Cherqui, Stéphanie
Publication Date
Mar 01, 2023
eScholarship - University of California
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Cystinosis is an autosomal recessive metabolic disease characterized by lysosomal accumulation of cystine in all the cells of the body. Infantile cystinosis begins in infancy by a renal Fanconi syndrome and eventually leads to multi-organ failure, including the kidney, eye, thyroid, muscle, and pancreas, eventually causing premature death in early adulthood. The current treatment is the drug cysteamine that only delays the progression of the disease. We identified the gene involved, CTNS, and showed that the encoded protein, cystinosin, is a proton-driven cystine transporter. We generated a mouse model of cystinosis, the Ctns-/- mice, that recapitulates the main disease complications. The goal was next to develop a gene therapy approach for cystinosis. We used bone marrow stem cells as a vehicle to bring the healthy CTNS gene to tissues, and we showed that wild-type hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell (HSPC) transplantation led to abundant tissue integration of bone marrow-derived cells, significant decrease of tissue cystine accumulation and long-term kidney, eye and thyroid preservation. We then developed an autologous transplantation approach of HSPCs modified ex vivo using a lentiviral vector to introduce a functional CTNS cDNA, and showed its efficacy in Ctns-/- mice. We conducted the pharmacology/toxicology studies, developed the manufacturing process using human CD34+ cells, and design the clinical trial. We received Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-clearance to start a phase 1/2 clinical trial for cystinosis in December 2018. Six patients have been treated so far. In this review, we describe the path to go from the gene to a gene therapy approach for cystinosis.

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