Efficient Genetic Safety Switches for Future Application of iPSC-Derived Cell Transplants.
Induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived cell products hold great promise as a potential cell source in personalized medicine. As concerns about the potential risk of graft-related severe adverse events, such as tumor formation from residual pluripotent cells, currently restrict their applicability, we established an optimized tool for therapeutic intervention that allows drug-controlled, specific and selective ablation of either iPSCs or the whole graft through genetic safety switches. To identify the best working system, different tools for genetic iPSC modification, promoters to express safety switches and different safety switches were combined. Suicide effects were slightly stronger when the suicide gene was delivered through lentiviral (LV) vectors compared to integration into the AAVS1 locus through TALEN technology. An optimized HSV-thymidine kinase and the inducible Caspase 9 both mediated drug-induced, efficient in vitro elimination of transgene-positive iPSCs. Choice of promoter allowed selective elimination of distinct populations within the graft: the hOct4 short response element restricted transgene expression to iPSCs, while the CAGs promoter ubiquitously drove expression in iPSCs and their progeny. Remarkably, both safety switches were able to prevent in vivo teratoma development and even effectively eliminated established teratomas formed by LV CAGs-transgenic iPSCs. These optimized tools to increase safety provide an important step towards clinical application of iPSC-derived transplants.