Controlled and localized genetic manipulation in the brain

Brain structure and function are determined in part through experience and in part through our inherited genes. A powerful approach for unravelling the balance between activity-dependent neuronal plasticity and genetic programs is to directly manipulate the genome. Such molecular genetic studies have been greatly aided by the remarkable progress of large-scale genome sequencing efforts. Sophisticated mouse genetic manipulations allow targeted point-mutations, deletions and additions to the mouse genome. These can be regulated through inducible promoters expressing in genetically specified neuronal cell types. However, despite significant progress it remains difficult to target specific brain regions through transgenesis alone. Recent work suggests that transduction vectors, like lentiviruses and adeno-associated viruses, may provide suitable additional tools for localized and controlled genetic manipulation. Furthermore, studies with such vectors may aid the development of human genetic therapies for brain diseases.


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