Gene therapy involves the transfer of genes to cells such that the recipient cells express these genes and thereby synthesize the ribonucleic acid and protein that they encode. Recent investigations suggest that gene therapy may have potential applications in the treatment of intervertebral disc disorders, particularly those associated with disc degeneration. The successful in vivo transfer of therapeutic genes to target cells within the intervertebral disc in clinically relevant animal models is one example of the rapid progress that is being made. The purpose of the current review is to address several important technical issues, including choice of vectors and gene delivery strategy and the characteristics of the target tissues, which are relevant to future clinical applications of gene therapy for the treatment of intervertebral disc disorders. It already is apparent from the growing literature that gene therapy has the potential of becoming a valuable clinical treatment mode for intervertebral disc disorders in the twenty-first century.

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