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Neurobiol Dis. 2012 Nov;48(2):202-11. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2011.08.023. Epub 2011 Aug 25.

Viral-mediated overexpression of mutant huntingtin to model HD in various species.

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Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), Institute of Biomedical Imaging (I2BM), Molecular Imaging Research Center (MIRCen), Fontenay-aux-Roses, France.


Huntington's disease (HD) is an autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disorder caused by an expansion of CAG repeats in the huntingtin (Htt) gene. Despite intensive efforts devoted to investigating the mechanisms of its pathogenesis, effective treatments for this devastating disease remain unavailable. The lack of suitable models recapitulating the entire spectrum of the degenerative process has severely hindered the identification and validation of therapeutic strategies. The discovery that the degeneration in HD is caused by a mutation in a single gene has offered new opportunities to develop experimental models of HD, ranging from in vitro models to transgenic primates. However, recent advances in viral-vector technology provide promising alternatives based on the direct transfer of genes to selected sub-regions of the brain. Rodent studies have shown that overexpression of mutant human Htt in the striatum using adeno-associated virus or lentivirus vectors induces progressive neurodegeneration, which resembles that seen in HD. This article highlights progress made in modeling HD using viral vector gene transfer. We describe data obtained with of this highly flexible approach for the targeted overexpression of a disease-causing gene. The ability to deliver mutant Htt to specific tissues has opened pathological processes to experimental analysis and allowed targeted therapeutic development in rodent and primate pre-clinical models.

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