Optimized pharmacological control over the AAV-Gene-Switch vector for regulable gene therapy.
Gene therapy in its current design is an irreversible process. It cannot be stopped in case of unwanted side effects, nor can expression levels of therapeutics be adjusted to individual patient's needs. Thus, the Gene-Switch (GS) system for pharmacologically regulable neurotrophic factor expression was established for treatment of parkinsonian patients. Mifepristone, the synthetic steroid used to control transgene expression of the GS vector, is an approved clinical drug. However, pharmacokinetics and -dynamics of mifepristone vary considerably between different experimental animal species and depend on age and gender. In humans, but not in any other species, mifepristone binds to a high-affinity plasma carrier protein. We now demonstrate that the formulation of mifepristone can have robust impact on its ability to activate the GS system. Furthermore, we show that a pharmacological booster, ritonavir (Rtv), robustly enhances the pharmacological effect of mifepristone, and allows it to overcome gender- and species-specific pharmacokinetic and -dynamic issues. Most importantly, we demonstrate that the GS vector can be efficiently controlled by mifepristone in the presence of its human plasma carrier protein, α1-acid glycoprotein, in a "humanized" rat model. Thus, we have substantially improved the applicability of the GS vector toward therapeutic use in patients.