Crigler–Najjar syndrome type I is a severe inborn error of bilirubin metabolism caused by a complete deficiency of uridine diphospho-glucuronosyl transferase 1A1 (UGT1A1) and results in life-threatening unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia. Lifelong correction of hyperbilirubinemia by liver-directed gene therapy using a helper-dependent adenoviral (HDAd) vector has been previously reported in the Gunn rat, a model of Crigler–Najjar syndrome, but was only achieved using high doses (≥3 × 1012 viral particles [vp]/kg), which are likely to elicit a severe toxic response in humans. Therefore, in this study, we investigate strategies to achieve correction of hyperbilirubinemia in the Gunn rat using clinically relevant low HDAd doses. We have found that correction of hyperbilirubinemia in the Gunn rat can be achieved with a low dose of 5 × 1011 vp/kg by using an HDAd vector bearing a more potent UGT1A1 expression cassette. Furthermore, by using hydrodynamic injection of the improved HDAd vector, correction of hyperbilirubinemia in the Gunn rat can be achieved using an even lower dose of 5 × 1010 vp/kg. Although hydrodynamic injection as performed in rats is not acceptable in humans, clinically attractive, minimally invasive methods have been successfully developed to mimic hydrodynamic injection of HDAd vector in non-human primates. Therefore, using an improved expression cassette combined with a more efficient method of vector delivery permits correction of hyperbilirubinemia in the Gunn rat using clinically relevant low HDAd doses and may thus pave the way to clinical application of HDAd vectors for Crigler–Najjar syndrome gene therapy
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