Background: Recent advances in the molecular characterization of dermatologic disease have substantively augmented the understanding of the pathogenetic processes underlying disorders of the skin. This new knowledge coupled with progress in gene delivery technologies has paved the way for introducing cutaneous gene therapy into the dermatologic therapeutic armamentorium. Objective: This review article includes an overview of the current strategies for delivery of gene therapy with an emphasis on the potential role of cutaneous gene delivery in the treatment of skin and systemic diseases. Conclusions: Accessibility for gene delivery, clinical evaluation, and topical modulation of gene expression render the skin a very attractive tissue for therapeutic gene delivery. However, there are several key hurdles to be overcome before cutaneous gene therapy becomes a viable clinical option. These include difficulties in inducing sustained expression of the desired gene in vivo, the challenge of targeting genes to long-lived stem cells, and the difficulty in achieving specific and uniform transfer to different compartments of the skin. However, these problems are not insurmountable and will likely be resolved in conjunction with ongoing advances in delineating gene expression profiles and other molecular properties of the skin, strategies for stem cell isolation, and improved approaches to regulating gene delivery and expression. These advances should create the framework for translating the enormous potential of cutaneous gene therapy into the clinical arena and, thereby, substantively improving the management of both cutaneous and systemic disease.
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