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Hum Mol Genet. 2010 Jun 1;19(11):2208-27. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddq099. Epub 2010 Mar 4.

Widespread enzymatic correction of CNS tissues by a single intracerebral injection of therapeutic lentiviral vector in leukodystrophy mouse models.

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San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Telethon Institute for Gene Therapy (HSR-TIGET), Via Olgettina 58, 20132 Milano, Italy


Leukodystrophies are rare diseases caused by defects in the genes coding for lysosomal enzymes that degrade several glycosphingolipids. Gene therapy for leukodystrophies requires efficient distribution of the missing enzymes in CNS tissues to prevent demyelination and neurodegeneration. In this work, we targeted the external capsule (EC), a white matter region enriched in neuronal projections, with the aim of obtaining maximal protein distribution from a single injection site. We used bidirectional (bd) lentiviral vectors (LV) (bdLV) to ensure coordinate expression of a therapeutic gene (beta-galactocerebrosidase, GALC; arylsulfatase A, ARSA) and of a reporter gene, thus monitoring simultaneously transgene distribution and enzyme reconstitution. A single EC injection of bdLV.GALC in early symptomatic twitcher mice (a murine model of globoid cell leukodystrophy) resulted in rapid and robust expression of a functional GALC protein in the telencephalon, cerebellum, brainstem and spinal cord. This led to global rescue of enzymatic activity, significant reduction of tissue storage and decrease of activated astroglia and microglia. Widespread protein distribution and complete metabolic correction were also observed after EC injection of bdLV.ARSA in a mouse model of metachromatic leukodystrophy. Our data indicated axonal transport, distribution through cerebrospinal fluid flow and cross-correction as the mechanisms contributing to widespread bioavailability of GALC and ARSA proteins in CNS tissues. LV-mediated gene delivery of lysosomal enzymes by targeting highly interconnected CNS regions is a potentially effective strategy that, combined with a treatment able to target the PNS and peripheral organs, may provide significant therapeutic benefit to patients affected by leukodystrophies.

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