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Gene Ther. 2002 Mar;9(6):415-9.

Liposome-mediated transfer of the bcl-2 gene results in neuroprotection after in vivo transient focal cerebral ischemia in an animal model.

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Molecular Neuro-oncology Laboratory, Department of Neurosurgery, Martin-Luther-University, Halle/S, Germany.


Acute cerebral ischemia causes hypoxic neuronal cell death by necrosis and apoptosis. Expression of anti-apoptotic transgenes in ischemic brain may provide a useful therapeutic strategy for alleviation of postischemic damage. The present study investigates liposome-mediated transfer of the human bcl-2 protein in a rat model of focal transient ischemia due to middle cerebral artery (MCA) occlusion. Two different types of plasmid vectors were used for bcl-2 expression: one driven by the constitutive cytomegalovirus promoter (pCMV) and another based on the hypoxia-inducible human vascular endothelial growth factor promoter (pHRE). Cationic liposome/plasmid DNA complexes (lipoplexes) were injected directly into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of rats immediately after MCA occlusion. The brains of treated and control animals were analyzed 48 h later. Infarct volumes and numbers of apoptotic cells were quantified. Occlusion of the MCA resulted in ipsilateral cerebral infarcts in all study animals. Transfer of the bcl-2 gene resulted in high level widespread protein expression in the case of the pCMV-bcl2 plasmid, while animals treated with the pHRE-bcl2 vector showed lower expression levels of bcl2 which were in addition limited to the ischemic area. Treatment with pCMV-bcl2, but not with pHRE-bcl2, was able to significantly reduce the infarct volume, which was 109 +/- 8 mm(3) for pCMV-bcl2, 152 +/- 29 mm(3) for pHRE-bcl2, and 155 +/- 18 mm(3) for control animals. Animals transfected with either vector showed a significant reduction in numbers of apoptotic cells in the infarct and penumbra area compared with controls. There were no short-term neurological side-effects of the CSF injection of lipoplexes or of bcl-2 expression. In conclusion, the hypoxia-inducible bcl-2 expression mediated by intrathecal lipoplexes may represent a novel, biologically safe and lesion-selective therapeutic approach for neuroprotection after acute cerebral ischemia. DOI: 10.1038/sj/gt/3301676.

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