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How realistic is cutaneous gene therapy?

Recent progress with innovative, experimental gene therapy approaches in animals, and recent improvements in our understanding and manipulation of stem cells, gene expression and gene delivery systems, have raised plenty of hopes in essentially all branches of clinical medicine that hitherto untreatable or poorly manageable diseases will soon become amenable to treatment. Few other organ systems have received such enthusiastic reviews in recent years as to the chances and prospects of gene therapy as the skin, with its excellent accessibility and its pools of--seemingly--readily manipulated epithelial stem cells (cf. Cotsarelis et al., Exp Dermatol 1999: 8: 80-88). However, as in other sectors of clinical medicine, the actual implementation of general gene therapy strategies in clinical practice has been faced with a range of serious difficulties (cf. Smith, Lancet 1999: 354 (suppl 1): 1-4; Lattime & Gerson (eds.), Gene Therapy of Cancer, Academic Press, San Diego, 1999). Thus, it is critically important to carefully distinguish unfounded hype from justified hope in this embryonal area of dermatologic therapy, to discuss in detail what can be realistically expected from cutaneous gene therapy approaches in the next few years, and importantly, what kind of promises should not be made to our patients at this time.[1]


  1. How realistic is cutaneous gene therapy? Hengge, U.R., Taichman, L.B., Kaur, P., Rogers, G., Jensen, T.G., Goldsmith, L.A., Rees, J.L., Christiano, A.M. Exp. Dermatol. (1999) [Pubmed]
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