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1.  Long-Term Systemic Myostatin Inhibition via Liver-Targeted Gene Transfer in Golden Retriever Muscular Dystrophy 
Human Gene Therapy  2011;22(12):1499-1509.
Abstract
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a lethal, X-linked recessive disease affecting 1 in 3,500 newborn boys for which there is no effective treatment or cure. One novel strategy that has therapeutic potential for DMD is inhibition of myostatin, a negative regulator of skeletal muscle mass that may also promote fibrosis. Therefore, our goal in this study was to evaluate systemic myostatin inhibition in the golden retriever model of DMD (GRMD). GRMD canines underwent liver-directed gene transfer of a self-complementary adeno-associated virus type 8 vector designed to express a secreted dominant-negative myostatin peptide (n=4) and were compared with age-matched, untreated GRMD controls (n=3). Dogs were followed with serial magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for 13 months to assess cross-sectional area and volume of skeletal muscle, then euthanized so that tissue could be harvested for morphological and histological analysis. We found that systemic myostatin inhibition resulted in increased muscle mass in GRMD dogs as assessed by MRI and confirmed at tissue harvest. We also found that hypertrophy of type IIA fibers was largely responsible for the increased muscle mass and that reductions in serum creatine kinase and muscle fibrosis were associated with long-term myostatin inhibition in GRMD. This is the first report describing the effects of long-term, systemic myostatin inhibition in a large-animal model of DMD, and we believe that the simple and effective nature of our liver-directed gene-transfer strategy makes it an ideal candidate for evaluation as a novel therapeutic approach for DMD patients.
Bish and colleagues evaluate the therapeutic potential of systemic myostatin inhibition in the golden retriever model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Canines underwent liver-directed gene transfer of a self-complementary adeno-associated virus type 8 vector expressing a secreted dominant-negative myostatin peptide. Myostatin inhibition resulted in increased muscle mass, largely due to hypertrophy of type IIA fibers, as well as in reduced fibrosis and serum creatine kinase.
doi:10.1089/hum.2011.102
PMCID: PMC3237695  PMID: 21787232
2.  Cardiac Gene Transfer of Short Hairpin RNA Directed Against Phospholamban Effectively Knocks Down Gene Expression but Causes Cellular Toxicity in Canines 
Human Gene Therapy  2011;22(8):969-977.
Abstract
Derangements in calcium cycling have been described in failing hearts, and preclinical studies have suggested that therapies aimed at correcting this defect can lead to improvements in cardiac function and survival. One strategy to improve calcium cycling would be to inhibit phospholamban (PLB), the negative regulator of SERCA2a that is upregulated in failing hearts. The goal of this study was to evaluate the safety and efficacy of using adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated cardiac gene transfer of short hairpin RNA (shRNA) to knock down expression of PLB. Six dogs were treated with self-complementary AAV serotype 6 (scAAV6) expressing shRNA against PLB. Three control dogs were treated with empty AAV6 capsid, and two control dogs were treated with scAAV6 expressing dominant negative PLB. Vector was delivered via a percutaneously inserted cardiac injection catheter. PLB mRNA and protein expression were analyzed in three of six shRNA dogs between days 16 and 26. The other three shRNA dogs and five control dogs were monitored long-term to assess cardiac safety. PLB mRNA was reduced 16-fold, and PLB protein was reduced 5-fold, with treatment. Serum troponin elevation and depressed cardiac function were observed in the shRNA group only at 4 weeks. An enzyme-linked immunospot assay failed to detect any T cells reactive to AAV6 capsid in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, heart, or spleen. Microarray analysis revealed alterations in cardiac expression of several microRNAs with shRNA treatment. AAV6-mediated cardiac gene transfer of shRNA effectively knocks down PLB expression but is associated with severe cardiac toxicity. Toxicity may result from dysregulation of endogenous microRNA pathways.
In this preclinical study, Bish and colleagues report that adeno-associated virus serotype 6 (AAV6)-mediated expression of short hairpin RNA (shRNA) directed against phospholamban (PLB), a regulator of heart failure (HF), is effective at knocking down PLB expression. Yet, safety assessments revealed that healthy canines treated with shRNA, but not empty AAV6 capsid, experienced serum cardiac troponin I elevation, cardiac dysfunction, and alteration of cardiac microRNA expression, suggesting that this approach may not be a feasible therapeutic strategy.
doi:10.1089/hum.2011.035
PMCID: PMC3159526  PMID: 21542669
3.  Percutaneous transendocardial delivery of self-complementary adeno-associated virus 6 achieves global cardiac gene transfer in canines 
Achieving efficient cardiac gene transfer in a large animal model has proven to be technically challenging. Prior strategies have employed cardio-pulmonary bypass or dual catheterization with the aid of vasodilators to deliver vectors, such as adenovirus, adeno-associated virus or plasmid DNA. While single stranded adeno-associated virus vectors have shown the greatest promise, they suffer from delayed expression, which might be circumvented by using self-complementary vectors. We sought to optimize cardiac gene transfer using a percutaneous transendocardial injection catheter to deliver adeno-associated virus vectors to the canine myocardium. Four vectors were evaluated—single stranded adeno-associated virus 9, self-complementary adeno-associated virus 9, self-complementary adeno-associated virus 8, self-complementary adeno-associated virus 6—so that comparison could be made between single stranded and self complementary vectors as well as among serotypes 9, 8, and 6. We demonstrate that self-complementary adeno-associated virus is superior to single stranded adeno-associated virus and that adeno-associated virus 6 is superior to other serotypes evaluated. Biodistribution studies revealed that vector genome copies were 15 to 4000 times more abundant in the heart than in any other organ for self-complementary adeno-associated virus 6. Percutaneous transendocardial injection of self-complementary adeno-associated virus 6 is a safe, effective method for achieving efficient cardiac gene transfer.
doi:10.1038/mt.2008.202
PMCID: PMC3241935  PMID: 18813281
4.  Overexpression of SERCA1a in the mdx Diaphragm Reduces Susceptibility to Contraction-Induced Damage 
Human Gene Therapy  2010;21(12):1735-1739.
Preclinical and clinical evidence suggests that calcium homeostasis is dysfunctional in dystrophic muscle. In the current brief report, Morine and colleagues examine whether overexpression of sarcoplasmic reticulum ATPase 1a (SERCA) could reduce muscle damage resulting from calcium homeostasis dysfunction. Using AAV6, the authors found that diaphragm-directed neonatal gene transfer of SERCA in dystrophin-deficient mdx mice resulted in reduced susceptibility to eccentric contraction-induced damage at 6 months of age.
Abstract
Although the precise pathophysiological mechanism of muscle damage in dystrophin-deficient muscle remains disputed, calcium appears to be a critical mediator of the dystrophic process. Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients and mouse models of dystrophin deficiency exhibit extensive abnormalities of calcium homeostasis, which we hypothesized would be mitigated by increased expression of the sarcoplasmic reticulum calcium pump. Neonatal adeno-associated virus gene transfer of sarcoplasmic reticulum ATPase 1a to the mdx diaphragm decreased centrally located nuclei and resulted in reduced susceptibility to eccentric contraction-induced damage at 6 months of age. As the diaphragm is the mouse muscle most representative of human disease, these results provide impetus for further investigation of therapeutic strategies aimed at enhanced cytosolic calcium removal.
doi:10.1089/hum.2010.077
PMCID: PMC2999573  PMID: 20540606
5.  Chronic Losartan Administration Reduces Mortality and Preserves Cardiac but Not Skeletal Muscle Function in Dystrophic Mice 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e20856.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a degenerative disorder affecting skeletal and cardiac muscle for which there is no effective therapy. Angiotension receptor blockade (ARB) has excellent therapeutic potential in DMD based on recent data demonstrating attenuation of skeletal muscle disease progression during 6–9 months of therapy in the mdx mouse model of DMD. Since cardiac-related death is major cause of mortality in DMD, it is important to evaluate the effect of any novel treatment on the heart. Therefore, we evaluated the long-term impact of ARB on both the skeletal muscle and cardiac phenotype of the mdx mouse. Mdx mice received either losartan (0.6 g/L) (n = 8) or standard drinking water (n = 9) for two years, after which echocardiography was performed to assess cardiac function. Skeletal muscle weight, morphology, and function were assessed. Fibrosis was evaluated in the diaphragm and heart by Trichrome stain and by determination of tissue hydroxyproline content. By the study endpoint, 88% of treated mice were alive compared to only 44% of untreated (p = 0.05). No difference in skeletal muscle morphology, function, or fibrosis was noted in losartan-treated animals. Cardiac function was significantly preserved with losartan treatment, with a trend towards reduction in cardiac fibrosis. We saw no impact on the skeletal muscle disease progression, suggesting that other pathways that trigger fibrosis dominate over angiotensin II in skeletal muscle long term, unlike the situation in the heart. Our study suggests that ARB may be an important prophylactic treatment for DMD-associated cardiomyopathy, but will not impact skeletal muscle disease.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020856
PMCID: PMC3120761  PMID: 21731628
6.  Upregulation of Elastase Activity in Aorta in Mucopolysaccharidosis I and VII Dogs May be Due to Increased Cytokine Expression 
Molecular genetics and metabolism  2009;99(4):396-407.
Mucopolysaccharidosis I (MPS I) and MPS VII are due to loss-of-function mutations within the genes that encode the lysosomal enzymes α-L-iduronidase and β-glucuronidase, respectively, and result in accumulation of glycosaminoglycans and multisystemic disease. Both disorders are associated with elastin fragmentation and dilatation of the aorta. Here, the pathogenesis and effect of gene therapy on aortic disease in canine models of MPS was evaluated. We found that cathepsin S is upregulated at the mRNA and enzyme activity level, while matrix metalloproteinase 12 (MMP-12) is upregulated at the mRNA level, in aortas from untreated MPS I and MPS VII dogs. Both of these proteases can degrade elastin. In addition, mRNA levels for the interleukin 6-like cytokine oncostatin M were increased in MPS I and MPS VII dog aortas, while mRNA for tumor necrosis factor α and toll-like receptor 4 were increased in MPS VII dog aortas. These cytokines could contribute to upregulation of the elastases. Neonatal intravenous injection of a retroviral vector expressing β-glucuronidase to MPS VII dogs reduced RNA levels of cathepsin S and MMP-12 and aortic dilatation was delayed, albeit dilatation developed at late times after gene therapy. A post-mortem aorta from a patient with MPS VII also exhibited elastin fragmentation. We conclude that aortic dilatation in MPS I and MPS VII dogs is likely due to degradation of elastin by cathepsin S and/or MMP-12. Inhibitors of these enzymes or these cytokine-induced signal transduction pathways might reduce aortic disease in patients with MPS.
doi:10.1016/j.ymgme.2009.12.003
PMCID: PMC2838970  PMID: 20044292
Mucopolysaccharidosis; canine; lysosomal storage disease; cathepsin S; elastin; aorta; gene therapy
7.  Myostatin Is Upregulated Following Stress in an Erk-Dependent Manner and Negatively Regulates Cardiomyocyte Growth in Culture and in a Mouse Model 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e10230.
Myostatin is well established as a negative regulator of skeletal muscle growth, but its role in the heart is controversial. Our goal in this study was to characterize myostatin regulation following cardiomyocyte stress and to examine the role of myostatin in the regulation of cardiomyocyte size. Neonatal cardiomyocytes were cultured and stressed with phenylephrine. Adenovirus was used to overexpress myostatin or dominant negative myostatin in culture. Adeno-associated virus was used to overexpress myostatin or dominant negative myostatin in mice. Myostatin is upregulated following cardiomyocyte stress in an Erk-dependent manner that is associated with increased nuclear translocation and DNA binding activity of MEF-2. Myostatin overexpression leads to decreased and myostatin inhibition to increased cardiac growth both in vitro and in vivo due to modulation of Akt and NFAT3 pathways. Myostatin is a negative regulator of cardiac growth, and further studies are warranted to investigate the role of myostatin in the healthy and failing heart.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010230
PMCID: PMC2856679  PMID: 20419100
8.  Systemic Myostatin Inhibition via Liver-Targeted Gene Transfer in Normal and Dystrophic Mice 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9176.
Background
Myostatin inhibition is a promising therapeutic strategy to maintain muscle mass in a variety of disorders, including the muscular dystrophies, cachexia, and sarcopenia. Previously described approaches to blocking myostatin signaling include injection delivery of inhibitory propeptide domain or neutralizing antibodies.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Here we describe a unique method of myostatin inhibition utilizing recombinant adeno-associated virus to overexpress a secretable dominant negative myostatin exclusively in the liver of mice. Systemic myostatin inhibition led to increased skeletal muscle mass and strength in control C57 Bl/6 mice and in the dystrophin-deficient mdx model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The mdx soleus, a mouse muscle more representative of human fiber type composition, demonstrated the most profound improvement in force production and a shift toward faster myosin-heavy chain isoforms. Unexpectedly, the 11-month-old mdx diaphragm was not rescued by long-term myostatin inhibition. Further, mdx mice treated for 11 months exhibited cardiac hypertrophy and impaired function in an inhibitor dose–dependent manner.
Conclusions/Significance
Liver-targeted gene transfer of a myostatin inhibitor is a valuable tool for preclinical investigation of myostatin blockade and provides novel insights into the long-term effects and shortcomings of myostatin inhibition on striated muscle.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009176
PMCID: PMC2820101  PMID: 20161803
9.  Adeno-Associated Virus (AAV) Serotype 9 Provides Global Cardiac Gene Transfer Superior to AAV1, AAV6, AAV7, and AAV8 in the Mouse and Rat 
Human Gene Therapy  2008;19(12):1359-1368.
Abstract
Heart disease is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality. Cardiac gene transfer may serve as a novel therapeutic approach. This investigation was undertaken to compare cardiac tropisms of adeno-associated virus (AAV) serotypes 1, 6, 7, 8, and 9. Neonatal mice were injected with 2.5 × 1011 genome copies (GC) of AAV serotype 1, 6, 7, 8, or 9 expressing LacZ under the control of the constitutive chicken β-actin promoter with cytomegalovirus enhancer promoter via intrapericardial injection and monitored for up to 1 year. Adult rats were injected with 5 × 1011 GC of the AAV vectors via direct cardiac injection and monitored for 1 month. Cardiac distribution of LacZ expression was assessed by X-Gal histochemistry, and β-galactosidase activity was quantified in a chemiluminescence assay. Cardiac functional data and biodistribution data were also collected in the rat. AAV9 provided global cardiac gene transfer stable for up to 1 year that was superior to other serotypes. LacZ expression was relatively cardiac specific, and cardiac function was unaffected by gene transfer. AAV9 provides high-level, stable expression in the mouse and rat heart and may provide a simple alternative to the creation of cardiac-specific transgenic mice. AAV9 should be used in rodent cardiac studies and may be the vector of choice for clinical trials of cardiac gene transfer.
doi:10.1089/hum.2008.123
PMCID: PMC2940566  PMID: 18795839
10.  Clinical characterization of cardiovascular abnormalities associated with feline mucopolysaccharidosis I and VI 
Summary
Objective
The purpose of this study was to define the cardiovascular abnormalities present in young and adult cats affected with the lysosomal storage diseases mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS) I and MPS VI.
Method
Eighteen cats affected with MPS I and fifteen cats affected with MPS VI were evaluated by physical examination, electrocardiography and echocardiography. Electrocardiograms were performed on all MPS I and all but 7 of the MPS VI cats. Ten unaffected cats underwent complete examinations for comparison purposes.
Results
No cardiovascular physical examination abnormalities were noted. ECG intervals were normal in affected cats; however, changes consistent with aberrant conduction were noted more frequently than in unaffected cats. Significant echocardiographic abnormalities included valve thickening and regurgitation (aortic and mitral) and aortic root dilation, particularly in the older cats.
Conclusion
As affected animals increased in age, more cardiac abnormalities were found with increasing severity. MPS I and MPS VI cats have similar cardiovascular findings to those seen in children and MPS VII dogs.
doi:10.1007/s10545-008-0821-1
PMCID: PMC2682766  PMID: 18509743
mucopolysacharidosis; valve disease; animal models
11.  A Novel Locus For Dilated Cardiomyopathy Maps to Canine Chromosome 8 
Genomics  2008;91(6):517-521.
Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), the most common form of cardiomyopathy, often leads to heart failure and sudden death. While a substantial proportion of DCMs are inherited, mutations responsible for the majority of DCMs remain unidentified. A genome-wide linkage study was performed to identify the locus responsible for an autosomal recessive inherited form of juvenile DCM (JDCM) in Portuguese water dogs using 16 families segregating the disease. Results link the JDCM locus to canine chromosome 8 with two-point and multipoint LOD scores of 10.8 and 14, respectively. The locus maps to a 3.9 Mb region, with complete syntenic homology to human chromosome 14, that contains no genes or loci known to be involved in the development of any type of cardiomyopathy. This discovery of a DCM locus with a previously unknown etiology will provide a new gene to examine in human DCM patients and a model for testing therapeutic approaches for heart failure.
doi:10.1016/j.ygeno.2008.03.007
PMCID: PMC2486407  PMID: 18442891
Cardiomyopathy, primary, dilated; Death, sudden; Canine; Genetic Linkage
12.  Exploring human/animal intersections: Converging lines of evidence in comparative models of aging 
At a symposium convened on March 8, 2007 by the Institute on Aging at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers from the University’s Schools of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine explored the convergence of aging research emerging from the two schools. Studies in human patients, animal models, and companion animals have revealed different but complementary aspects of the aging process, ranging from fundamental biologic aspects of aging to the treatment of age-related diseases, both experimentally and in clinical practice. Participants concluded that neither animal nor human research alone will provide answers to most questions about the aging process. Instead, an optimal translational research model supports a bidirectional flow of information from animal models to clinical research.
doi:10.1016/j.jalz.2007.09.007
PMCID: PMC2665932  PMID: 18631944
Organ specific mechanisms of aging in humans and animals; Model systems for aging research; Normal aging; Aging related diseases

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