Improved animal models for testing gene therapy for atherosclerosis
Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences. Pharmacy
Engineering sciences. Technology
Human gene therapy. - New York
, p. 106-114
University of Antwerp
Gene therapy delivered to the blood vessel wall could augment current therapies for atherosclerosis, including systemic drug therapy and stenting. However, identification of clinically useful vectors and effective therapeutic transgenes remains at the preclinical stage. Identification of effective vectors and transgenes would be accelerated by availability of animal models that allow practical and expeditious testing of vessel-wall-directed gene therapy. Such models would include humanlike lesions that develop rapidly in vessels that are amenable to efficient gene delivery. Moreover, because human atherosclerosis develops in normal vessels, gene therapy that prevents atherosclerosis is most logically tested in relatively normal arteries. Similarly, gene therapy that causes atherosclerosis regression requires gene delivery to an existing lesion. Here we report development of three new rabbit models for testing vessel-wall-directed gene therapy that either prevents or reverses atherosclerosis. Carotid artery intimal lesions in these new models develop within 27 months after initiation of a high-fat diet and are 2080 times larger than lesions in a model we described previously. Individual models allow generation of lesions that are relatively rich in either macrophages or smooth muscle cells, permitting testing of gene therapy strategies targeted at either cell type. Two of the models include gene delivery to essentially normal arteries and will be useful for identifying strategies that prevent lesion development. The third model generates lesions rapidly in vector-naïve animals and can be used for testing gene therapy that promotes lesion regression. These models are optimized for testing helper-dependent adenovirus (HDAd)-mediated gene therapy; however, they could be easily adapted for testing of other vectors or of different types of molecular therapies, delivered directly to the blood vessel wall. Our data also supports the promise of HDAd to deliver long-term therapy from vascular endothelium without accelerating atherosclerotic disease.