We used a helper-free recombinant retrovirus carrying the neomycin resistance (neor) gene to investigate methods for improving gene transfer efficiencies to clonogenic hematopoietic progenitor cells of human origin and to assess the possibility of gene transfer to the more primitive cells from which clonogenic cells are derived after several weeks in long-term human marrow cultures. The proportion of neor CFU-GM in methylcellulose assays of infected fresh marrow was increased by six- to eightfold (mean 37.4%) by the addition of extra GM colony- stimulating factor and interleukin-1 beta or medium conditioned by a human marrow “stromal” cell line to medium conditioned by agar- stimulated human leukocytes both during the infection and the colony growth period. Similar increases were also noted in the proportion of neor BFU-E, although the efficiencies overall were somewhat lower (up to 25.7%, mean 16.3%). Initiation of long-term cultures with marrow exposed to virus under the same growth factor-supplemented conditions but without any immediate selection step resulted in sustained production of a high proportion of neor CFU-GM and BFU-E for 6 weeks in both the nonadherent and adherent fractions. Molecular analysis was used to confirm the presence of the neo gene after culture. These results demonstrate that stable, high-efficiency gene transfer can be accomplished to the most primitive class of human hematopoietic cells currently detectable that may also have in vivo reconstituting potential. Further use of this approach should provide new insights into human hematopoietic stem cell regulation and allow continued development and assessment of gene therapy procedures.

This content is only available as a PDF.