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Neurobiol Dis. 2012 Mar;45(3):992-8. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2011.12.018. Epub 2011 Dec 14.

Characterization of a murine model of SMA.

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, Emory University School of Medicine, 101 Woodruff Circle, Rm 6339, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an autosomal recessive neuromuscular disease, which is the leading genetic cause of mortality in children. To date no effective treatment exists for SMA. The genetic basis for SMA has been well documented as a mutation in the gene for survival of motor neuron (SMN). Because there is an understanding of which gene needs to be replaced (SMN) and where it needs to be replaced (spinal motor systems), SMA is an ideal target for gene replacement via gene therapy. While a variety of animal models for SMA exist, they are either too fulminant to realistically test most gene delivery strategies, or too mild to provide a robust read out of the therapeutic effect. The field, therefore, requires a robust model with a slower symptomatic progression. A conditional knockout of SMN in neuronal cell types, giving a phenotype of functional motor defects, weight loss and reduced life expectancy partially satisfies this need (Frugier, Tiziano et al. 2000). This Cre/LoxP mediated neuron specific model presents an attractive alternative. In the present manuscript, we characterize the functional motor deficits of the model. We observed a decline in locomotor ability, as assessed by open field testing. The finer functions of motor skills such as righting reflex and grip strength were also observed to degenerate in the SMA mice. The decline in motor function that we observed here correlates with the anatomical decline in motor neurons and motor axons presented in the literature (Ferri, Melki et al. 2004). This work adds to our understanding and knowledge base of this Cre/LoxP model and provides a basis from which functional recovery, following interventions can be assessed.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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