Ecological Models for Gene Therapy. II. Niche Construction, Nongenetic Inheritance, and Ecosystem Perturbations


In this article, we apply the perspective of intraorganismal ecology by investigating a family of ecological models suitable to describe a gene therapy for a particular metabolic disorder, the adenosine deaminase deficiency. The gene therapy is modeled as the prospective ecological invasion of an organ (here, bone marrow) by genetically modified stem cells, which then operate niche construction in the cellular environment by releasing an enzyme they synthesize. We show that depending on the order chosen for the model (a choice that cannot be made on a priori assumptions), different kinds of dynamics are expected, possibly leading to different therapeutic strategies. This drives us to discuss several features of the extension of ecology to intraorganismal ecology.

Biological Theory