Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a hereditary disease primarily due to mutations in the low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) that lead to elevated cholesterol and premature development of cardiovascular disease. Homozygous FH patients (HoFH) with two dysfunctional LDLR alleles are not as successfully treated with standard hypercholesterol therapies, and more aggressive therapeutic approaches to control cholesterol levels must be considered. Liver transplant can resolve HoFH, and hepatocyte transplantation has shown promising results in animals and humans. However, demand for donated livers and high-quality hepatocytes overwhelm the supply. Human pluripotent stem cells can differentiate to hepatocyte-like cells (HLCs) with the potential for experimental and clinical use. To be of future clinical use as autologous cells, LDLR genetic mutations in derived FH-HLCs need to be corrected. Genome editing technology clustered-regularly-interspaced-short-palindromic-repeats/CRISPR-associated 9 (CRISPR/Cas9) can repair pathologic genetic mutations in human induced pluripotent stem cells.
Conclusion: We used CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing to permanently correct a 3-base pair homozygous deletion in LDLR exon 4 of patient-derived HoFH induced pluripotent stem cells. The genetic correction restored LDLR-mediated endocytosis in FH-HLCs and demonstrates the proof-of-principle that CRISPR-mediated genetic modification can be successfully used to normalize HoFH cholesterol metabolism deficiency at the cellular level.