Background: X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency due to a mutation in the gene encoding the common gamma (gamma(c)) chain is a lethal condition that can be cured by allogeneic stem-cell transplantation. We investigated whether infusion of autologous hematopoietic stem cells that had been transduced in vitro with the gamma(c) gene can restore the immune system in patients with severe combined immunodeficiency.
Methods: CD34+ bone marrow cells from five boys with X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency were transduced ex vivo with the use of a defective retroviral vector. Integration and expression of the gamma(c) transgene and development of lymphocyte subgroups and their functions were sequentially analyzed over a period of up to 2.5 years after gene transfer.
Results: No adverse effects resulted from the procedure. Transduced T cells and natural killer cells appeared in the blood of four of the five patients within four months. The numbers and phenotypes of T cells, the repertoire of T-cell receptors, and the in vitro proliferative responses of T cells to several antigens after immunization were nearly normal up to two years after treatment. Thymopoiesis was documented by the presence of naive T cells and T-cell antigen-receptor episomes and the development of a normal-sized thymus gland. The frequency of transduced B cells was low, but serum immunoglobulin levels and antibody production after immunization were sufficient to avoid the need for intravenous immunoglobulin. Correction of the immunodeficiency eradicated established infections and allowed patients to have a normal life.
Conclusions: Ex vivo gene therapy with gamma(c) can safely correct the immune deficiency of patients with X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency.