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      Single-Dose Gene-Replacement Therapy for Spinal Muscular Atrophy

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          Abstract

          Spinal muscular atrophy type 1 (SMA1) is a progressive, monogenic motor neuron disease with an onset during infancy that results in failure to achieve motor milestones and in death or the need for mechanical ventilation by 2 years of age. We studied functional replacement of the mutated gene encoding survival motor neuron 1 (SMN1) in this disease.

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          Intravascular AAV9 preferentially targets neonatal neurons and adult astrocytes.

          Delivery of genes to the brain and spinal cord across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) has not yet been achieved. Here we show that adeno-associated virus (AAV) 9 injected intravenously bypasses the BBB and efficiently targets cells of the central nervous system (CNS). Injection of AAV9-GFP into neonatal mice through the facial vein results in extensive transduction of dorsal root ganglia and motor neurons throughout the spinal cord and widespread transduction of neurons throughout the brain, including the neocortex, hippocampus and cerebellum. In adult mice, tail vein injection of AAV9-GFP leads to robust transduction of astrocytes throughout the entire CNS, with limited neuronal transduction. This approach may enable the development of gene therapies for a range of neurodegenerative diseases, such as spinal muscular atrophy, through targeting of motor neurons, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, through targeting of astrocytes. It may also be useful for rapid postnatal genetic manipulations in basic neuroscience studies.
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            Rescue of the spinal muscular atrophy phenotype in a mouse model by early postnatal delivery of SMN.

            Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), the most common autosomal recessive neurodegenerative disease affecting children, results in impaired motor neuron function. Despite knowledge of the pathogenic role of decreased survival motor neuron (SMN) protein levels, efforts to increase SMN have not resulted in a treatment for patients. We recently demonstrated that self-complementary adeno-associated virus 9 (scAAV9) can infect approximately 60% of motor neurons when injected intravenously into neonatal mice. Here we use scAAV9-mediated postnatal day 1 vascular gene delivery to replace SMN in SMA pups and rescue motor function, neuromuscular physiology and life span. Treatment on postnatal day 5 results in partial correction, whereas postnatal day 10 treatment has little effect, suggesting a developmental period in which scAAV9 therapy has maximal benefit. Notably, we also show extensive scAAV9-mediated motor neuron transduction after injection into a newborn cynomolgus macaque. This demonstration that scAAV9 traverses the blood-brain barrier in a nonhuman primate emphasizes the clinical potential of scAAV9 gene therapy for SMA.
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              Antisense correction of SMN2 splicing in the CNS rescues necrosis in a type III SMA mouse model.

              Increasing survival of motor neuron 2, centromeric (SMN2) exon 7 inclusion to express more full-length SMN protein in motor neurons is a promising approach to treat spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a genetic neurodegenerative disease. Previously, we identified a potent 2'-O-(2-methoxyethyl) (MOE) phosphorothioate-modified antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) that blocks an SMN2 intronic splicing silencer element and efficiently promotes exon 7 inclusion in transgenic mouse peripheral tissues after systemic administration. Here we address its efficacy in the spinal cord--a prerequisite for disease treatment--and its ability to rescue a mild SMA mouse model that develops tail and ear necrosis, resembling the distal tissue necrosis reported in some SMA infants. Using a micro-osmotic pump, we directly infused the ASO into a lateral cerebral ventricle in adult mice expressing a human SMN2 transgene; the ASO gave a robust and long-lasting increase in SMN2 exon 7 inclusion measured at both the mRNA and protein levels in spinal cord motor neurons. A single embryonic or neonatal intracerebroventricular ASO injection strikingly rescued the tail and ear necrosis in SMA mice. We conclude that this MOE ASO is a promising drug candidate for SMA therapy, and, more generally, that ASOs can be used to efficiently redirect alternative splicing of target genes in the CNS.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                New England Journal of Medicine
                N Engl J Med
                New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM/MMS)
                0028-4793
                1533-4406
                November 02 2017
                November 02 2017
                : 377
                : 18
                : 1713-1722
                Article
                10.1056/NEJMoa1706198
                29091557
                © 2017
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