The feasibility of somatic cell gene therapy as a method of insulin delivery has been studied in mice. Murine pituitary AtT20 cells were transfected with a human preproinsulin DNA in a plasmid containing a metallothionein promoter and a gene conferring resistance to the antibiotic G418. The AtT20MtIns-1·4 clone of cells was selected because of its higher insulin-releasing activity compared with other clones. After culturing for 24 h in Dulbecco's medium containing 10 mM glucose, the AtT20MtIns-1·4 cells released human insulin at about 5 ng/106 cells per 24 h. Insulin release was not significantly altered by raised concentrations of glucose, potassium or calcium, but insulin release was increased by 20 mm arginine, 5 mm isomethylbutylxanthine and 90 μm zinc.
AtT20MtIns-1·4 cells (2 × 106) were implanted intraperitoneally into non-diabetic athymic nude (nu/nu) mice, and the mice were made diabetic by injection of streptozotocin after 7 days. Release of human insulin in vivo was assessed using a specific plasma human C-peptide assay. Human C-peptide concentrations were maintained at about 01 pmol/ml throughout the 29 days of the study. The development of streptozotocin-induced hyperglycaemia was delayed in recipients of the cells releasing human insulin, compared with a control group receiving an implant of non-transfected cells. At autopsy the implanted AtT20MtIns-1·4 cells in each recipient had formed a tumour-like aggregation, with an outer region of insulin-containing cells. The study suggests that somatic cell gene therapy offers a feasible approach to insulin delivery.
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