Background: A point mutation in sickle cell disease (SCD) alters one amino acid in the β-globin subunit of hemoglobin, with resultant anemia and multiorgan damage that typically shortens lifespan by decades. Because SCD is caused by a single mutation, and hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) can be harvested, manipulated, and returned to an individual, it is an attractive target for gene correction.
Results: An optimized Cas9 ribonucleoprotein (RNP) with an ssDNA oligonucleotide donor together generated correction of at least one β-globin allele in more than 30% of long-term engrafting human HSCs. After adopting a high-fidelity Cas9 variant, efficient correction with minimal off-target events also was observed. In vivo erythroid differentiation markedly enriches for corrected β-globin alleles, indicating that erythroblasts carrying one or more corrected alleles have a survival advantage.
Significance: These findings indicate that the sickle mutation can be corrected in autologous HSCs with an optimized protocol suitable for clinical translation.
Keywords: genetic engineering; genetics; molecular genetics.