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Abstract

Modulation of biological pathways governing osteogenesis may accelerate osseous regeneration and reduce the incidence of complications associated with fracture healing. Transforming growth factor β1 (TGF-β1) is a potent growth factor implicated in the regulation of osteogenesis and fracture repair. The use of recombinant proteins, however, has significant disadvantages and has limited the clinical utility of these molecules. Targeted gene therapy using adenovirus vectors is a technique that may circumvent difficulties associated with growth factor delivery. In this study, we investigate the efficacy of replication-deficient adenoviruses containing the human TGF-β1 and the bacterial lacZ genes in transfecting osteoblasts in vitro and osseous tissues in vivo. We demonstrate that adenovirus-mediated gene therapy efficiently transfects osteoblasts in vitro with the TGF-β1 virus causing a marked up-regulation in TGF-β1 mRNA expression even 7 days after transfection. Increased TGF-β1 mRNA expression was efficiently translated into protein production and resulted in approximately a 46-fold increase in TGF-β1 synthesis as compared with control cells (vehicle- or B-galactosidase–transfected). Moreover, virally produced TGF-β1 was functionally active and regulated the expression of collagen IαI (5-fold increase) and the vascular endothelial growth factor (2.5-fold increase). Using an adenovirus vector encoding the Escherichia coli LacZ gene, we demonstrated that adenovirus-mediated gene transfer efficiently transfects osteoblasts and osteocytes in vivo and that transfection can be performed by a simple percutaneous injection. Finally, we show that delivery of the hTGF-β1 gene to osseous tissues in vivo results in significant changes in the epiphyseal plate primarily as a result of increased thickness of the provisional calcification zone.