Infoscience

Journal article

Restoration of cognitive and motor functions by ciliary neurotrophic factor in a primate model of Huntington's disease

Huntington's disease (HD) is an inherited disorder characterized by cognitive impairments, motor deficits, and progressive dementia. These symptoms result from progressive neurodegenerative changes mainly affecting the neostriatum. This pathology is fatal in 10 to 20 years and there is currently no treatment for HD. Early in the course of the disease, initial clinical manifestations are due to striatal neuronal dysfunction, which is later followed by massive neuronal death. A major therapeutic objective is therefore to reverse striatal dysfunction prior to cell death. Using a primate model reproducing the clinical features and the progressive neuronal degeneration typical of HD, we tested the therapeutic effects of direct intrastriatal infusion of ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF). To achieve a continuous delivery of CNTF over the full period of evaluation, we took advantage of the macroencapsulation technique. Baby hamster kidney (BHK) cells previously engineered to produce human CNTF were encapsulated into semipermeable membranes and implanted bilaterally into striata. We show here that intracerebral delivery of low doses of CNTF at the onset of symptoms not only protects neurons from degeneration but also restores neostriatal functions. CNTF-treated primates recovered, in particular, cognitive and motor functions dependent on the anatomofunctional integrity of frontostriatal pathways that were distinctively altered in this HD model. These results support the hypothesis that CNTF infusion into the striatum of HD patients not only could block the degeneration of neurons but also alleviated motor and cognitive symptoms associated with persistent neuronal dysfunction.

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