Development of Novel Efficient SIN Vectors with Improved Safety Features for Wiskott–Aldrich Syndrome Stem Cell Based Gene Therapy

Gene therapy is a promising therapeutic approach to treat primary immunodeficiencies. Indeed, the clinical trial for the Wiskott–Aldrich Syndrome (WAS) that is currently ongoing at the Hannover Medical School (Germany) has recently reported the correction of all affected cell lineages of the hematopoietic system in the first treated patients. However, an extensive study of the clonal inventory of those patients reveals that <i>LMO2</i>, <i>CCND2</i> and <i>MDS1/EVI1</i> were preferentially prevalent. Moreover, a first leukemia case was observed in this study, thus reinforcing the need of developing safer vectors for gene transfer into HSC in general. Here we present a novel self-inactivating (SIN) vector for the gene therapy of WAS that combines improved safety features. We used the elongation factor 1 alpha (EFS) promoter, which has been extensively evaluated in terms of safety profile, to drive a codon-optimized human <i>WASP</i> cDNA. To test vector performance in a more clinically relevant setting, we transduced murine HSPC as well as human CD34+ cells and also analyzed vector efficacy in their differentiated myeloid progeny. Our results show that our novel vector generates comparable WAS protein levels and is as effective as the clinically used LTR-driven vector. Therefore, the described SIN vectors appear to be good candidates for potential use in a safer new gene therapy protocol for WAS, with decreased risk of insertional mutagenesis.