Plasmid-based gene therapy of diabetes mellitus

Gene Ther. 2007 Apr;14(7):553-64. doi: 10.1038/ Epub 2007 Jan 11.


Type I diabetes mellitus (T1D) is due to a loss of immune tolerance to islet antigen and thus, there is intense interest in developing therapies that can re-establish it. Tolerance is maintained by complex mechanisms that include inhibitory molecules and several types of regulatory T cells (Tr). A major historical question is whether gene therapy can be employed to generate Tr cells. This review shows that gene transfer of immunoregulatory molecules can prevent T1D and other autoimmune diseases. In our studies, non-viral gene transfer is enhanced by in vivo electroporation (EP). This technique can be used to perform DNA vaccination against islet cell antigens and when combined with appropriate immune ligands results in the generation of Tr cells and protection against T1D. In vivo EP can also be applied for non-immune therapy of diabetes. It can be used to deliver protein drugs such as glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), leptin or transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta). These act in T1D or type II diabetes (T2D) by restoring glucose homeostasis, promoting islet cell survival and growth or improving wound healing and other complications. Furthermore, we show that in large animals EP can deliver peptide hormones, such as growth hormone releasing hormone (GHRH). We conclude that the non-viral gene therapy and EP represent a safe and efficacious approach with clinical potential.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoantigens / genetics*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / therapy*
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / therapy*
  • Electroporation
  • Genetic Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Leptin / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Vaccines, DNA / administration & dosage*


  • Autoantigens
  • Cytokines
  • Leptin
  • Vaccines, DNA