Retroviruses as vectors

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109 Scopus citations


Recombinant retroviruses have long been used to deliver heterologous genes to mammalian cells. Convenient packaging cell lines and vector plasmids have been distributed widely and 'home-made' retroviral vectors have now become a useful research tool in many laboratories. Compared to more traditional methods of gene transfer, retroviral vectors are extraordinarily efficient gene delivery vehicles which cause no detectable harm as they enter their target cells. In the nucleus the retroviral necleic acid becomes integrated into chromosomal DNA, ensuring its long-term persistence and stable transmission to all future progeny of the transduced cell. Up to 8 kilobases of foreign gene sequence can be packaged in a retroviral vector and this is more than enough for most gene therapy applications. Retroviral vectors can also be manufactured in large quantities to meet very stringent safety specifications. They have therefore been selected as the vectors of choice in 80% of the clinical gene therapy trials that have been approved to date, So far there have been no reported short- or long-term toxicity problems associated with their use in human gene therapy trials, now dating back to 1989. However, despite this impressive record, there is still great scope (and need) for the development of new, improved retroviral vectors and packaging systems to fuel further advances in the field of human gene therapy. In the following discussion, existing retroviral vectors are reviewed and current areas of technological development are emphasised.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-30
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Medical Bulletin
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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