Introduction: Muscle-directed gene therapy is rapidly gaining attention primarily because muscle is an easily accessible target tissue and is also associated with various severe genetic disorders. Localized and systemic delivery of recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) vectors of several serotypes results in very efficient transduction of skeletal and cardiac muscles, which has been achieved in both small and large animals, as well as in humans. Muscle is the target tissue in gene therapy for many muscular dystrophy diseases, and may also be exploited as a biofactory to produce secretory factors for systemic disorders. Current limitations of using rAAVs for muscle gene transfer include vector size restriction, potential safety concerns such as off-target toxicity and the immunological barrier composing of pre-existing neutralizing antibodies and CD8(+) T-cell response against AAV capsid in humans.
Areas covered: In this article, we will discuss basic AAV vector biology and its application in muscle-directed gene delivery, as well as potential strategies to overcome the aforementioned limitations of rAAV for further clinical application.
Expert opinion: Delivering therapeutic genes to large muscle mass in humans is arguably the most urgent unmet demand in treating diseases affecting muscle tissues throughout the whole body. Muscle-directed, rAAV-mediated gene transfer for expressing antibodies is a promising strategy to combat deadly infectious diseases. Developing strategies to circumvent the immune response following rAAV administration in humans will facilitate clinical application.