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  1. Abstract Background

    Genomic safe harbors are regions of the genome that can maintain transgene expression without disrupting the function of host cells. Genomic safe harbors play an increasingly important role in improving the efficiency and safety of genome engineering. However, limited safe harbors have been identified.


    Here, we develop a framework to facilitate searches for genomic safe harbors by integrating information from polymorphic mobile element insertions that naturally occur in human populations, epigenomic signatures, and 3D chromatin organization. By applying our framework to polymorphic mobile element insertions identified in the 1000 Genomes project and the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project, we identify 19 candidate safe harbors in blood cells and 5 in brain cells. For three candidate sites in blood, we demonstrate the stable expression of transgene without disrupting nearby genes in host erythroid cells. We also develop a computer program, Genomics and Epigenetic Guided Safe Harbor mapper (GEG-SH mapper), for knowledge-based tissue-specific genomic safe harbor selection.


    Our study provides a new knowledge-based framework to identify tissue-specific genomic safe harbors. In combination with the fast-growing genome engineering technologies, our approach has the potential to improve the overall safety and efficiency of gene and cell-based therapy in the near future.