Safety profiling of genetically engineered Pim-1 kinase overexpression for oncogenicity risk in human c-kit+ cardiac interstitial cells

Gene Ther. 2019 Aug;26(7-8):324-337. doi: 10.1038/s41434-019-0084-5. Epub 2019 Jun 25.


Advancement of stem cell-based treatment will involve next-generation approaches to enhance therapeutic efficacy which is often modest, particularly in the context of myocardial regenerative therapy. Our group has previously demonstrated the beneficial effect of genetic modification of cardiac stem cells with Pim-1 kinase overexpression to rejuvenate aged cells as well as potentiate myocardial repair. Despite these encouraging findings, concerns were raised regarding potential for oncogenic risk associated with Pim-1 kinase overexpression. Testing of Pim-1 engineered c-kit+ cardiac interstitial cells (cCIC) derived from heart failure patient samples for indices of oncogenic risk was undertaken using multiple assessments including soft agar colony formation, micronucleation, gamma-Histone 2AX foci, and transcriptome profiling. Collectively, findings demonstrate comparable phenotypic and biological properties of cCIC following Pim-1 overexpression compared with using baseline control cells with no evidence for oncogenic phenotype. Using a highly selective and continuous sensor for quantitative assessment of PIM1 kinase activity revealed a sevenfold increase in Pim-1 engineered vs. control cells. Kinase activity profiling using a panel of sensors for other kinases demonstrates elevation of IKKs), AKT/SGK, CDK1-3, p38, and ERK1/2 in addition to Pim-1 consistent with heightened kinase activity correlating with Pim-1 overexpression that may contribute to Pim-1-mediated effects. Enhancement of cellular survival, proliferation, and other beneficial properties to augment stem cell-mediated repair without oncogenic risk is a feasible, logical, and safe approach to improve efficacy and overcome current limitations inherent to cellular adoptive transfer therapeutic interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinogenesis / genetics*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Genetic Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System
  • Male
  • Micronucleus Tests
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / metabolism*
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / pathology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-pim-1 / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-pim-1 / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Stem Cells / pathology
  • Transcriptome*


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit
  • PIM1 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-pim-1