Infoscience

Journal article

Neuroprotection by Gene Therapy Targeting Mutant SOD1 in Individual Pools of Motor Neurons Does not Translate Into Therapeutic Benefit in fALS Mice

A major challenge in neurological gene therapy is delivery of the transgene to sufficient cell numbers in an atraumatic manner. This is particularly difficult for motor neuron (MN) diseases that have cells located across the entire spinal cord, brain stem, and cortex. We have used the familial mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) to examine the feasibility of body-wide intramuscular injections of adeno-associated virus serotype 6 (AAV6), a vector capable of axonal retrograde transport, to deliver therapeutic genetic information across the lower MN axis. Neonatal muscle delivery of AAV expressing small hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) against the toxic transgene in this model, human mutant superoxide dismutase 1 (mSOD1), led to significant mSOD1 knockdown in the muscle as well as innervating MNs. This knockdown conferred neuroprotection and halted muscle atrophy in individually targeted MN pools. However, despite the vector being targeted to MNs that innervate muscle groups controlling eating, breathing, and locomotion, this approach was unable to therapeutically impact on disease progression in the ALS mouse model. These results stress the complexity of gene delivery for mSOD1 silencing and suggest that critical thresholds of protein knockdown and transduction across various cell types are required to translate local neuroprotective effects into functional improvements.

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