Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2018

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Sinn, Patrick L

Second Advisor

McCray, Paul B , Jr

First Committee Member

Maury, Wendy J

Second Committee Member

Klingelhutz, Aloysius J

Third Committee Member

Dupuy, Adam J


Cystic fibrosis (CF) is the most common autosomal recessive genetic disease in Caucasian populations. CF affects multiple organ systems including pancreas, liver, intestines, sweat glands, and male reproductive organs, however the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in CF patients is chronic lung disease. CF is caused by a mutant cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene which leads to chloride (Cl-) and bicarbonate (HCO3-) anion dysregulation at the airway surface. Without adequate anion exchange, thick, viscous mucus accumulates at the airway surface allowing bacterial colonization to occur. Complementing CFTR in the appropriate airway cells restores the anion channel activity in CFTR-deficient cells. The ultimate goal for CF gene therapy is to design an integrating vector that would lead to persistent and efficient expression of CFTR in the airways.

Performing gene therapy experiments is dependent upon a relevant animal model. The CF pig is a large animal model similar in size, anatomy, and physiology to humans. Importantly, the CF pig recapitulates human lung disease. From the CF pig, we have learned much about CF lung disease and have developed relevant assays to measure anion channel correction. We have learned that loss of CFTR leads to a decreased airway surface ASL pH, bacterial killing ability, and increased mucus viscosity. Standardized assays have been developed to evaluate the change in current by Ussing chambers, ASL pH, bacterial killing in vivo and ASL pH and viscosity on primary airway cultures in vitro. Ultimately, these metrics allow us to make conclusions about the efficiency of CFTR restoration.

Viral vectors are promising candidates for CF gene therapy. Viral vectors such as adenovirus (Ad), adeno-associated virus (AAV), and pseudotyped lentiviral vectors such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can efficiently transduce airway cells and express CFTR. Ad and AAV have both been tested in CF clinical trials, but CFTR expression was transient, if detected at all. Understanding vector biology and overcoming barriers in the lung have allowed us to improve vector delivery to the airways. However, the next major hurdle was achieving persistent expression. Ad and AAV are both transiently expressing vectors, and vector readministration is implausible due to the presence of neutralizing antibodies that develop against the vector. Creating a hybrid nonviral/viral vector in which the integrating nonviral piggyBac transposon system is delivered by an Ad or AAV vector has allowed us to achieve persistent expression in mice. In a third integrating vector system, lentiviral vectors have historically been challenging to work with due to low titer levels. However, improvement in vector purification methods have allowed us to validate a lentiviral vector as a viable gene therapy option. In total, we have validated three integrating vector systems by restoring CFTR to CF pigs to correct the phenotypic defect.


CF pig, cystic fibrosis, gene therapy, gene transfer, piggyBac transposon, viral vectors


xv, 157 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 123-157).


Copyright © 2018 Ashley L. Cooney

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Microbiology Commons