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Is genetic rescue of cystinosis an achievable treatment goal?


Cystinosis is an autosomal recessive metabolic disease that belongs to the family of lysosomal storage disorders. The defective gene is CTNS, which encodes the lysosomal cystine transporter, cystinosin. Cystine accumulates in all tissues and leads to organ damage including end-stage renal disease. In this review, we outline the studies that support that genetic rescue of cystinosis could be an achievable goal, even though cystinosis is a multi-compartmental disease and cystinosin an intracellular transmembrane protein. Using the mouse model of cystinosis, the Ctns(-/-) mice, we showed that transplanted hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) were able to act as vehicles for the delivery of a functional Ctns gene to the different organs and led to the significant decrease of the tissue cystine content and tissue preservation. Ex vivo gene-modified Ctns(-/-) HSC transplantation using a lentiviral vector containing CTNS complementary DNA (cDNA) was also successful in the Ctns(-/-) mice and built the foundations for a clinical trial for autologous HSC transplantation for cystinosis. The capacity of HSCs for rescuing non-hematopoietic disease is controversial, and new insights into regenerative medicine could be gained from unraveling the underlying mechanism of action.

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