Targeted Gene Repression Technologies for Regenerative Medicine, Genomics, and Gene Therapy
Gene regulation is a complex and tightly controlled process that defines cell function in physiological and abnormal states. Programmable gene repression technologies enable loss-of-function studies for dissecting gene regulation mechanisms and represent an exciting avenue for gene therapy. Established and recently developed methods now exist to modulate gene sequence, epigenetic marks, transcriptional activity, and post-transcriptional processes, providing unprecedented genetic control over cell phenotype. Our objective was to apply and develop targeted repression technologies for regenerative medicine, genomics, and gene therapy applications. We used RNA interference to control cell cycle regulation in myogenic differentiation and enhance the proliferative capacity of tissue engineered cartilage constructs. These studies demonstrate how modulation of a single gene can be used to guide cell differentiation for regenerative medicine strategies. RNA-guided gene regulation with the CRISPR/Cas9 system has rapidly expanded the targeted repression repertoire from silencing single protein-coding genes to modulation of genes, promoters, and other distal regulatory elements. In order to facilitate its adaptation for basic research and translational applications, we demonstrated the high degree of specificity for gene targeting, gene silencing, and chromatin modification possible with Cas9 repressors. The specificity and effectiveness of RNA-guided transcriptional repressors for silencing endogenous genes are promising characteristics for mechanistic studies of gene regulation and cell phenotype. Furthermore, our results support the use of Cas9-based repressors as a platform for novel gene therapy strategies. We developed an in vivo AAV-based gene repression system for silencing endogenous genes in a mouse model. Together, these studies demonstrate the utility of gene repression tools for guiding cell phenotype and the potential of the RNA-guided CRISPR/Cas9 platform for applications such as causal studies of gene regulatory mechanisms and gene therapy.
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