Group Title: Arthritis Research & Therapy
Title: The 3rd International Meeting on Gene Therapy in Rheumatology and Orthopaedics
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Title: The 3rd International Meeting on Gene Therapy in Rheumatology and Orthopaedics
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Evans, Christopher
Ghivizzani, Steven
Gouze, Elvire
Rediske, John
Schwarz, Edward
Robbins, Paul
Publisher: Arthritis Research and Therapy
Publication Date: 2005
Abstract: The 3rd International Meeting on Gene Therapy in Rheumatology and Orthopaedics was held in Boston, Massachusetts, USA in May 2004. Keystone lectures delivered by Drs Joseph Glorioso and Inder Verma provided comprehensive, up-to-date information on all major virus vectors. Other invited speakers covered the application of gene therapy to treatment of arthritis, including the latest clinical trial in rheumatoid arthritis, as well as lupus and Sjögren's syndrome. Applications in mesenchymal stem cell biology, tissue repair, and regenerative medicine were also addressed. The field has advanced considerably since the previous meeting in this series, and further clinical trials seem likely.
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General Note: M3: 10.1186/ar1853
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Meeting report

The 3rd International Meeting on Gene Therapy in Rheumatology

and Orthopaedics
Christopher H Evans1, Steven C Ghivizzani2, Elvire Gouze2, John J Rediske3, Edward M Schwarz4
and Paul D Robbins5

1 Center for Molecular Orthopaedics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
2 Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, Florida, USA
3Novartis Inc., East Hanover, New Jersy, USA
4Department of Orthopaedics, University of Rochester School of Medicine, Rochester, New York, USA
5Department of Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Corresponding author: CH Evans,

Published: 28 October 2005
This article is online at
C 2005 BioMed Central Ltd

The 3rd International Meeting on Gene Therapy in Rheumatology
and Orthopaedics was held in Boston, Massachusetts, USA in
May 2004. Keystone lectures delivered by Drs Joseph Glorioso
and Inder Verma provided comprehensive, up-to-date information
on all major virus vectors. Other invited speakers covered the
application of gene therapy to treatment of arthritis, including the
latest clinical trial in rheumatoid arthritis, as well as lupus and
Sjogren's syndrome. Applications in mesenchymal stem cell
biology, tissue repair, and regenerative medicine were also
addressed. The field has advanced considerably since the previous
meeting in this series, and further clinical trials seem likely.

Every 3 years, a loosely affiliated network of investigators
holds an informal, 2-day meeting to discuss progress in the
general area of arthritis gene therapy. The name of the
meeting varies slightly on each occasion to reflect the
inclinations of the local organizers. The First International
Meeting on Gene Therapy of Arthritis and Related Disorders
(held in Bethesda, MA, USA by the National Institutes of
Health in 1998) [1] and the Second International Meeting on
Gene and Cell Therapies of Arthritis (held in Montpellier,
France in 2001) [2] attracted a predominately rheumatologic
audience. The latest meeting (held in Boston, MA, USA in
May 2004) included substantial coverage of bone, cartilage
and ligament healing, as well as osteoporosis, disc
degeneration and osteogenesis imperfecta (01). The Third
International Meeting on Gene Therapy in Rheumatology and
Orthopaedics thus attracted participants from both the
rheumatologic and orthopaedic communities. Approximately
85 individuals attended.

Arthritis Research & Therapy 2005, 7:273-278 (DOI 10.11 86/arl 853)

Keynote lectures
Two tremendous Keynote Lectures by former Presidents of
the American Society of Gene Therapy ensured a successful
start. Joseph Glorioso (University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh,
PA, USA), American Editor of the journal Gene Therapy, lifted
the mood by discussing 'Why gene therapy will work'. His
lecture focused on the major nonintegrating viral vectors,
adenovirus and, especially, herpes simplex virus, whose
development as a vector for gene therapy was pioneered by
Glorioso and colleagues [3]. This vector is particularly well
suited to applications in the nervous system, and impressive
preclinical data were shown in animal models of pain [4]. This
is clearly of relevance to rheumatology and orthopaedics, in
which intransigent pain is a frequent dominant symptom.

Inder Verma (the Salk Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA), Editor-in-
Chief of the journal Molecular Therapy, discussed 'Gene
delivery: novel vectors'. By focusing largely on retroviral and
lentiviral vectors, it formed a fitting complement to Glorioso's
lecture. Verma's laboratory pioneered the development of
lentiviral vectors [5], and his presentation emphasized both
the remarkable efficiency of these vectors and the problems
associated with insertional mutagenesis as a result of
integration into genomic DNA. A major effort is underway to
develop vectors with predictable, safe integration sites.
Without such assurances, gaining regulatory approval for the
use of such vectors for nonlethal indications such as arthritis
and tissue repair may be difficult.

Arthritis and autoimmune diseases
Lentiviral vectors were the subject of the first talk in the
following session on 'Gene transfer to synovium'. The

AAV = adeno-associated virus; ACL = anterior cruciate ligament; APC = antigen-presenting cell; BMP = bone morphogenetic protein; LMP = lim
mineralization protein; MSC= mesenchymal stem cell; 01 = osteogenesis imperfecta; RA= rheumatoid arthritis.

Arthritis Research & Therapy December 2005 Vol 7 No 6 Evans et al

synovium is an obvious site for gene transfer when treating
joint diseases by local gene therapy [6], and this shaped the
strategy of the first clinical trials. Although a number of
vectors can transfer genes to synovium quite effectively, it
has been difficult to achieve long-term transgene expression
in the joints of experimental animals. Elvire Gouze (University
of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA) described the remarkable
efficiency of HIV-derived vectors in transferring genes to the
synovial linings of rat joints by in vivo intra-articular injection
[7]. Moreover, experiments conducted with athymic rats
clearly identified the immune system as a major barrier to
prolonged intrasynovial transgene expression [8]. Her
experiments also identified a subpopulation of synovial cells
with a very low turnover and the ability to support long-term
transgene expression.

Another vector for in vivo transfer of genes to joints, namely
adeno-associated virus (AAV), was described by Florence
Apparailly (Hopital Lapeyronie, Montpellier, France). AAV is
becoming the vector of choice for many human applications,
including arthritis, because it is perceived to be very safe [9].
This consideration overrides its relatively modest transduction
of synovium and the cost and complexities of its manufacture.
Later in the meeting, Haim Burstein (Targeted Genetics Inc.,
Seattle, WA, USA) described the first human clinical trial
using AAV in arthritis gene therapy.

Artificial chromosomes provide an alternative means of
presenting and sustaining transgenes within target cells [10];
Margriet Vervoordeldonk (University of Amsterdam,
Amsterdam, The Netherlands) described their first use in
synovium. Because the artificial chromosomes are duplicated,
segregated, and distributed to daughter cells upon cell
division in the manner of endogenous chromosomes, there is
the potential for long-term carriage of transgenes. The large
size of the chromosome circumvents the packaging
restrictions of viral vectors. At the moment, the strategy is
technologically demanding. The artificial chromosomes must
be transfected into synovial cells in vitro before implantation,
and the efficiency of successful transfection is low. Although
this can to some degree be compensated for by including
selectable markers, many of the proteins encoded by the
selectable marker genes, such as neomycin phospho-
transferase, are of nonhuman origin. They are therefore
antigenic and thus likely to provoke immune destruction of the
transfected cells.

After systemic injection into experimental animals, certain
types of cells home to arthritic joints and other sites of
disease, such as lymphoid organs. This permits transgenes to
be delivered locally to multiple affected sites by a single,
systemic injection a strategy known as 'facilitated local
delivery' [11]. By combining the specificity and safety of local
delivery with the ease of systemic application, this approach
offers many advantages. Moreover, the types of cells that are
274 most useful in this regard, namely antigen-presenting cells

(APCs) and lymphocytes, are not passive suppliers of
transgene products but are active participants in suppressing

In the session on 'Antigen presenting cells and lymphocytes',
Paul Robbins (University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA)
discussed data confirming the remarkable potency of
genetically modified dendritic cells as antiarthritic agents in
murine, collagen-induced arthritis. A variety of transgenes,
including interleukin-4 and Fas ligand, as well as nuclear
factor-KB decoys, are active in this regard [12,13]. Robbins
also described microvesicles, termed exosomes, which are
produced by the genetically modified APCs and are as potent
as the parental immunosuppressive APCs in blocking, or
even reversing, established murine arthritis [14].

John Mountz (University of Alabama, Birmingham, AL, USA)
has pioneered the use of APCs expressing a death gene. He
described the latest iteration of this approach in which an
adenovirus is used to deliver TRAIL (tumor necrosis factor-
related apoptosis-inducing ligand) cDNA, under the control of
a tet-inducible promoter, to dendritic cells. Impressive
suppression of murine collagen-induced arthritis was
achieved when the genetically modified dendritic cells were
first pulsed with type II collagen [15].

Gary Fathman (Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, USA)
covered the use of genetically modified lymphocytes to treat
autoimmune diseases an approach he has named 'adoptive
cellular gene therapy' [16]. Like dendritic cells, the
lymphocytes home to sites of disease involvement where they
confer a therapeutic effect [17]. One advantage of
lymphocytes is their ability to divide in response to antigen,
thereby amplifying the therapeutic response. A disadvantage
for clinical application is the difficulty of isolating autoreactive
T cells in sufficient numbers.

A severe combined immunodeficient mouse model developed
by Gay and colleagues [18] has proved very useful in
evaluating various elements of gene transfer to synovium in
human tissues in vivo. Ulf Muller (University of Regensburg,
Regensburg, Germany) described this model and the
accumulated data obtained with it. The model involves the
coimplantation of human synovium or isolated synoviocytes
with small pieces of human cartilage into severe combined
immunodeficient mice. Both synovial invasion of the cartilage
and chondrocytic chondrolysis occur, and are susceptible to
various genes transferred to the human synovial tissue before

Other talks in the session on 'Autoimmune disease' were
represented by lectures on lupus and Sj6gren's syndrome.
Rizgar Mageed (University College, London, UK) described
various genetic approaches to treating lupus, many of which
are based upon the delivery of immunosuppressive cytokines
or cytokine antagonists [19]. Sj6gren's syndrome is an

autoimmune disease that affects the salivary glands. Direct
gene transfer to the salivary glands can be accomplished in a
relatively noninvasive manner. Bruce Baum (National
Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MA, USA) described the
suppression of disease in a murine model of Sjdgren's
syndrome using recombinant AAV to deliver interleukin-1 0
cDNA [20]. Because the salivary glands have important
secretary functions, they can also be targeted for the
systemic delivery of secreted gene products [21].

Mesenchymal stem cells and the repair of
bone and cartilage
So-called mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) attract
considerable attention as pluripotent adult cells with the
ability to differentiate into most, if not all, musculoskeletal
tissues [22]. They thus form a very attractive basis for the
repair and regeneration of these tissues, especially when
their abilities to do so are enhanced by genetic modification.
Many of the technologies being developed for this purpose
combine elements from tissue engineering and regenerative
medicine with gene therapy. MSCs were originally identified
in bone marrow isolates, but similar cells have subsequently
been isolated from a number of additional sources.

Considerable research is devoted to comparing the
properties of MSCs derived from various different locations
and evaluating their suitability for tissue regeneration. In the
session on 'Mesenchymal stem cells', talks by Dan Gazit
(Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel), Hairong Peng
(University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA), and Ronda
Schreiber (Macropore Inc., San Diego, CA, USA) described
the properties of MSCs derived from bone marrow [23],
muscle [24], and adipose tissue [25], respectively.
Collectively, the talks indicated that MSCs can readily be
grown from these sources, genetically manipulated in the
laboratory, and used successfully to enhance the repair of
surgically created lesions in the long bones and crania of
experimental animals.

The session on MSCs overlapped with sessions on 'Cartilage
repair' and 'Bone healing', as well as certain topics
considered in a session on 'Other orthopedic applications of
gene therapy'. Steven Ghivizzani (University of Florida,
Gainesville, FL, USA) described a novel approach to
enhancing cartilage repair, in which bone marrow is aspirated
and, as it clots, mixed with vectors carrying chondrogenic
genes. The clot containing genetically modified
chondroprogenitor cells and, possibly, bound vector is known
as a 'gene plug' and can be press-fitted into the defect as an
immediate source of reparative cells expressing
chondrogenic cDNAs [26]. A key element of this approach is
the ability of progenitor cells to undergo chondrogenesis in
response to gene transfer, and this was shown for MSCs
transduced with cDNAs encoding transforming growth
factor-P, [27]. Promising, preliminary in vivo data were
obtained from experiments in which genetically modified bone

Available online

marrow was implanted into osteochondral lesions in the
femoral condyles of rabbits.

Ex vivo approaches to the repair of cartilage using genetically
modified chondrocytes and MSCs were discussed by Alan
Nixon (Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA) and Klaus Von der
Mark (University of Erlangen-Nuernberg, Germany), respect-
ively. The former speaker described experiments in horses in
which allogeneic chondrocytes were transduced with equine
insulin-like growth factor-1 or human bone morphogenetic
protein (BMP)-7, incorporated into a fibrin clot, and implanted
into surgically created, partial thickness cartilage lesions in
horses [28]. Genetic manipulation of the donor chondrocytes
accelerated early healing, but ultimately there was little
difference from controls. Several issues remain to be
resolved, including the fate of the donor allografted cells. Von
der Mark's group established monolayer cultures of MSCs
from the rib perichondrium of rats and transduced the cells
with recombinant adenoviruses carrying BMP-2 and insulin-
like growth factor-1 cDNAs [29]. The modified cells were
incorporated into fibrin glue and placed into partial thickness
lesions in the patellar groove of the femur. Both transgenes
enhanced the repair process, but BMP-2 expression was
associated with the formation of osteophytes.

The use of gene transfer to enhance bone healing is a
popular field of study, not least because bone responds so
well to this type of manipulation and cDNAs encoding a
variety of different BMPs are readily available. Several
different approaches were discussed. Greg Helm (University
of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA) and Axel Baltzer
(University of Dusseldorf, Dusseldorf, Germany) reported the
use of direct adenovirus delivery of osteogenic cDNAs to
ectopic and intraosseous sites [30,31]. Immune reactions to
the adenovirus and the transgene product emerge as
important factors in the success of these approaches. In
general, it appears that intramuscular injection of recombinant
first-generation adenovirus carrying an osteogenic BMP
cDNA fails to induce bone in immunocompetent rats and
mice, although immunodeficient animals respond by
producing abundant ectopic bone. When the same
adenovirus is injected intraosseously, however, there is a
good osteogenic response in immunocompetant animals,
with healing of experimental, critical size defects. Baltzer also
described preliminary data suggesting that the direct,
intralesional injection of adenovirus carrying BMP-2 cDNA
promotes the healing of fractures in osteoporotic sheep [32].

Jay Lieberman (University of California at Los Angeles, Los
Angeles, CA, USA) described ex vivo strategies for healing
bone using genetically modified MSCs derived from bone
marrow [33] and fat [34]. Ex vivo methods are expensive and
cumbersome for clinical application, but they are perceived to
be safer than in vivo methods and, because they provide
progenitor cells in addition to genes, they may be more
efficient under conditions in which soft tissue support is

Arthritis Research & Therapy December 2005 Vol 7 No 6 Evans et al

compromised. As Lieberman commented, not all bone injuries
will need to be treated by gene therapy, and those that do will
have available several different strategic options, with
different methods suited for different applications [35]. Thus,
there is unlikely to be a single preferred gene therapy for all
clinical settings in which it is necessary to enhance
osteogenesis. Instead, the orthopedic surgeon will have
available a variety of options from which to choose,
depending on the clinical circumstances.

Large osseous defects are often treated with devitalized,
allografted bone. These have a high failure rate because they
do not remodel. Edward Schwarz (University of Rochester
Medical Center, Rochester, NY, USA) addressed this
problem by coating the allograft with AAV carrying cDNAs
encoding vascular endothelial growth factor and RANK
(receptor activator of nuclear factor-KB) ligand. In a mouse
model, the coated allografts underwent remodeling and were
eventually replaced with living, host bone a process known
as allograft revitalization [36].

Lim mineralization protein (LMP)-1 is perhaps the most potent
osteogenic protein yet identified. When delivered as a cDNA
its effects are dramatic, and it has been widely studied in the
context of spinal fusion [37]. Because LMP-1 is an
intracellular protein, gene transfer has been the technology of
choice for enhancing bone healing. However, there are now
methods for delivering proteins efficiently into cells by
attaching protein transduction domains to their amino-termini.
One such protein transduction domain is derived from the TAT
protein of HIV; Jeffrey Marx (Medtronics Inc., Minneapolis, MN,
USA) described the properties of the protein formed when the
TAT protein transduction domain is fused to LMP-1. The
potent osteogenic properties of this protein suggest that there
are alternatives to gene transfer for certain intracellular
proteins that do not require prolonged expression.

Ligament repair and disc degeneration
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) of the knee is frequently
ruptured during sporting activities. It does not heal
spontaneously. ACL injuries are not only painful and
debilitating, but they also predispose to osteoarthritis. In the
absence of a repair process, treatment is surgical and of
questionable value; the incidence of secondary osteoarthritis,
for instance, is not reduced by ACL reconstruction. Martha
Murray (Children's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA) described
novel approaches to ACL healing based on the migration of
cells from a ruptured ACL into suitable, adjacent, collagenous
matrices. When these matrices are impregnated with
adenovirus vectors, the immigrating cells become transduced
and, depending on the transgene, better able to form repair
tissue [38].

Intervertebral disc degeneration is a massive and expensive
public health problem. It may be possible to prevent disc
276 degeneration through the transfer of protective genes to disc

cells. James Kang (University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA,
USA) has pioneered research in this area [39]. The disc
provides two advantages to gene therapists: the cells within
the disc are protected from immune surveillance and they do
not divide. Because of these circumstances, it is possible to
express foreign genes within the disc for at least a year after
the direct injection of first generation adenovirus vectors. A
variety of growth factor cDNAs enhance matrix synthesis after
in vivo, virally mediated gene transfer to the discs of rabbits
[40]. Experiments are underway to determine whether they
retard disc degeneration in animal models.

Osteogenesis imperfecta
Until now, applications of gene therapy in rheumatology and
orthopedics have focused almost exclusively on the treatment
of nongenetic diseases. 01 ('brittle bone disease') provides one
exception to this engaging paradox. It is caused by mutations in
the genes encoding the a-chains of type I collagen. Gene
therapy is complicated by the fact that, in most cases, 01 is a
dominant negative condition. Christopher Niyibizi (Hershey
Medical School, Hershey, PA, USA) studied the gene therapy
of 01 using the oim mouse, which fails to produce the a,-chain
of type I collagen and has a recessive condition resembling
human 01. He has been able to correct the phenotype in
cultured fibroblasts in vitro and in patches of skin in vivo, using
an adenovirus to transfer the wild-type cDNA encoding the c2
chain of type I collagen [41]. This is something of an
accomplishment because there was a concern that the high
synthesis of the a,-chain would disrupt the 2:1 ratio of ca:c"2
chains in type I collagen. Instead, the inherent editing functions
of the cell ensured production of authentic type I collagen
molecules. Niyibizi is now exploring the use of genetically
modified MSCs as vehicles for correcting 01 [42].

In future, it is likely that, where a clear mutation has been
associated with a genetic rheumatic or orthopedic disease, a
gene therapy approach will be tried [43].

Clinical trials
Five clinical trials for the gene therapy of rheumatoid arthritis
(RA) have been initiated. Two of these were described at
previous meetings of this group. Haim Burstein described the
preclinical data leading up to a phase I protocol recently
initiated by Targeted Genetics Inc. This protocol uses a
serotype 2 AAV carrying what is essentially etenercept
cDNA. An equivalent vector has shown efficacy in rat
streptococcal cell wall induced arthritis [44], a model of RA,
and the clinical vector has proved safe in monkeys. During
the phase I study, the vector is injected into individual joints
of subjects with RA to establish dosing and safety. At the
time of the meeting, the vector had been administered safely
to three individuals, but no clinical data were available.

Rheumatology and orthopedics provide valuable niches for
gene therapy. Indeed, these disciplines may find themselves

in the forefront when it comes to clinical applications. Many of
these applications are well suited to gene transfer
approaches, and the potential patient population is very large.
Because most conditions are debilitating rather than lethal,
safety is a dominating issue that determines the types of
vectors that are acceptable. Impressive data have been
generated in various animal models of arthritis, tissue repair,
disc degeneration, and 01. It is encouraging that several
clinical trials have been initiated for the gene therapy of RA,
and thus far these are proving to be safe. However, only one
such study has appeared in the literature [45] and we must
await further peer-reviewed publication before getting
excessively optimistic.

The next meeting in this series will be held in Amsterdam, The
Netherlands in 2006. Enquires may be directed to Paul-Peter
Tak (

Competing interests
CHE and PDR are members of the Scientific Advisory Board
of TissueGene Inc. and Orthogen AG.

We are very grateful to the following for their support of this meeting:

Nonprofit: Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation;
Orthopaedic Research Society; Inflammation Research Association;
and Center for Molecular Orthopaedics

Industry: Amgen; AstraZeneca; Bristol-Myers Squibb; Genzyme; Medtron-
ics; Millennium; Orthogen; Pfizer; Targeted Genetics; and TissueGene.

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