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1.  Antisense Oligonucleotides Delivered to the Mouse CNS Ameliorate Symptoms of Severe Spinal Muscular Atrophy 
Science translational medicine  2011;3(72):72ra18.
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an autosomal recessive neuromuscular disorder caused by mutations in the SMN1 gene that result in a deficiency of SMN protein. One approach to treat SMA is to use antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) to redirect the splicing of a paralogous gene, SMN2, to boost production of functional SMN. Injection of a 2′-O-2-methoxyethyl–modified ASO (ASO-10-27) into the cerebral lateral ventricles of mice with a severe form of SMA resulted in splice-mediated increases in SMN protein and in the number of motor neurons in the spinal cord, which led to improvements in muscle physiology, motor function and survival. Intrathecal infusion of ASO-10-27 into cynomolgus monkeys delivered putative therapeutic levels of the oligonucleotide to all regions of the spinal cord. These data demonstrate that central nervous system–directed ASO therapy is efficacious and that intrathecal infusion may represent a practical route for delivering this therapeutic in the clinic.
PMCID: PMC3140425  PMID: 21368223
2.  CNS-targeted gene therapy improves survival and motor function in a mouse model of spinal muscular atrophy 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2010;120(4):1253-1264.
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a neuromuscular disease caused by a deficiency of survival motor neuron (SMN) due to mutations in the SMN1 gene. In this study, an adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector expressing human SMN (AAV8-hSMN) was injected at birth into the CNS of mice modeling SMA. Western blot analysis showed that these injections resulted in widespread expression of SMN throughout the spinal cord, and this translated into robust improvement in skeletal muscle physiology, including increased myofiber size and improved neuromuscular junction architecture. Treated mice also displayed substantial improvements on behavioral tests of muscle strength, coordination, and locomotion, indicating that the neuromuscular junction was functional. Treatment with AAV8-hSMN increased the median life span of mice with SMA-like disease to 50 days compared with 15 days for untreated controls. Moreover, injecting mice with SMA-like disease with a human SMN–expressing self-complementary AAV vector — a vector that leads to earlier onset of gene expression compared with standard AAV vectors — led to improved efficacy of gene therapy, including a substantial extension in median survival to 157 days. These data indicate that CNS-directed, AAV-mediated SMN augmentation is highly efficacious in addressing both neuronal and muscular pathologies in a severe mouse model of SMA.
PMCID: PMC2846065  PMID: 20234094
3.  Temporal Neuropathological and Behavioral Phenotype of 6Neo/6Neo Pompe Disease Mice 
Pompe disease (glycogen storage disease II) is caused by mutations in the acid α-glucosidase gene. The most common form is rapidly progressive with glycogen storage, particularly in muscle, that leads to profound weakness, cardiac failure, and death by the age of two years. Although usually considered a muscle disease, glycogen storage also occurs in the CNS. We evaluated the progression of neuropathological and behavioral abnormalities in a Pompe disease mouse model (6neo/6neo) that displays many features of the human disease. Homozygous mutant mice store excess glycogen within large neurons of hindbrain, spinal cord, and sensory ganglia by the age of one month; accumulations then spread progressively within many CNS cell types. “Silver degeneration” and Fluoro-Jade C stains revealed severe degeneration in axon terminals of primary sensory neurons at three to nine months. These abnormalities were accompanied by progressive behavioral impairment on rotorod, wire hanging and foot fault tests. The extensive neuropathological alterations in this model suggest that therapy of skeletal and cardiac muscle disorders by systemic enzyme replacement therapy may not be sufficient to reverse functional deficits due to CNS glycogen storage, particularly early-onset, rapidly progressive disease. A better understanding of the basis for clinical manifestations is needed to correlate CNS pathology with Pompe disease manifestations.
PMCID: PMC2743262  PMID: 18648322
Axon terminal degeneration; Genetic disease; Glycogen storage in CNS; Lysosomal storage diseases; Neurobiology
4.  Delivery of AAV-IGF-1 to the CNS Extends Survival in ALS Mice Through Modification of Aberrant Glial Cell Activity 
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease of the motor system. Recent work in rodent models of ALS has shown that insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) slows disease progression when delivered at disease onset. However, IGF-1’s mechanism of action along the neuromuscular axis remains unclear. In this study, symptomatic ALS mice received IGF-1 through stereotaxic injection of an IGF-1-expressing viral vector to the deep cerebellar nuclei (DCN), a region of the cerebellum with extensive brain stem and spinal cord connections. We found that delivery of IGF-1 to the central nervous system (CNS) reduced ALS neuropathology, improved muscle strength, and significantly extended life span in ALS mice. To explore the mechanism of action of IGF-1, we used a newly developed in vitro model of ALS. We demonstrate that IGF-1 is potently neuroprotective and attenuates glial cell–mediated release of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and nitric oxide (NO). Our results show that delivering IGF-1 to the CNS is sufficient to delay disease progression in a mouse model of familial ALS and demonstrate for the first time that IGF-1 attenuates the pathological activity of non-neuronal cells that contribute to disease progression. Our findings highlight an innovative approach for delivering IGF-1 to the CNS.
PMCID: PMC2737251  PMID: 18388910
5.  Development of a Single Vector System that Enhances Trans-Splicing of SMN2 Transcripts 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(10):e3468.
RNA modalities are developing as a powerful means to re-direct pathogenic pre-mRNA splicing events. Improving the efficiency of these molecules in vivo is critical as they move towards clinical applications. Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is caused by loss of SMN1. A nearly identical copy gene called SMN2 produces low levels of functional protein due to alternative splicing. We previously reported a trans-splicing RNA (tsRNA) that re-directed SMN2 splicing. Now we show that reducing the competition between endogenous splices sites enhanced the efficiency of trans-splicing. A single vector system was developed that expressed the SMN tsRNA and a splice-site blocking antisense (ASO-tsRNA). The ASO-tsRNA vector significantly elevated SMN levels in primary SMA patient fibroblasts, within the central nervous system of SMA mice and increased SMN-dependent in vitro snRNP assembly. These results demonstrate that the ASO-tsRNA strategy provides insight into the trans-splicing mechanism and a means of significantly enhancing trans-splicing activity in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2565107  PMID: 18941511
6.  Intraventricular Brain Injection of Adeno-Associated Virus Type 1 (AAV1) in Neonatal Mice Results in Complementary Patterns of Neuronal Transduction to AAV2 and Total Long-Term Correction of Storage Lesions in the Brains of β-Glucuronidase-Deficient Mice 
Journal of Virology  2003;77(12):7034-7040.
Inherited metabolic disorders that affect the central nervous system typically result in pathology throughout the brain; thus, gene therapy strategies need to achieve widespread delivery. We previously found that although intraventricular injection of the neonatal mouse brain with adeno-associated virus serotype 2 (AAV2) results in dispersed gene delivery, many brain structures were poorly transduced. This limitation may be overcome by using different AAV serotypes because the capsid proteins use different cellular receptors for entry, which may allow enhanced global targeting of the brain. We tested this with AAV1 and AAV5 vectors. AAV5 showed very limited brain transduction after neonatal injection, even though it has different transduction patterns than AAV2 in adult brain injections. In contrast, AAV1 vectors, which have not been tested in the brain, showed robust widespread transduction. Complementary patterns of transduction between AAV1 and AAV2 were established and maintained in the adult brain after neonatal injection. In the majority of structures, AAV1 transduced many more cells than AAV2. Both vectors transduced mostly neurons, indicating that differential expression of receptors on the surfaces of neurons occurs in the developing brain. The number of cells positive for a vector-encoded secreted enzyme (β-glucuronidase) was notably greater and more widespread in AAV1-injected brains. A comprehensive analysis of AAV1-treated brains from β-glucuronidase-deficient mice (mucopolysaccharidosis type VII) showed complete reversal of pathology in all areas of the brain for at least 1 year, demonstrating that the combination of this serotype and experimental strategy is therapeutically effective for treating global neurometabolic disorders.
PMCID: PMC156185  PMID: 12768022
7.  Widespread Gene Delivery and Structure-Specific Patterns of Expression in the Brain after Intraventricular Injections of Neonatal Mice with an Adeno-Associated Virus Vector 
Journal of Virology  2001;75(24):12382-12392.
Developing a system for widespread somatic gene transfer in the central nervous system (CNS) would be beneficial for understanding the global influence of exogenous genes on animal models. We injected an adeno-associated virus serotype 2 (AAV2) vector into the cerebral lateral ventricles at birth and mapped its distribution and transduction pattern from a promoter capable of expression in multiple targets. The injections resulted in structure-specific patterns of expression that were maintained for at least 1 year in most regions, with efficient targeting of some of the major principal neuron layers. The patterns of transduction were explained by circulation of the viral vector in the subarachnoid space via CSF flow, followed by transduction of underlying structures, rather than by progenitor cell infection and subsequent migration. This study demonstrates that gene transfer throughout the CNS can be achieved without germ line transmission and establishes an experimental strategy for introducing genes to somatic cells in a highly predictable manner.
PMCID: PMC116134  PMID: 11711628

Results 1-7 (7)