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AAV mediated GDNF secretion from retinal glia slows down retinal degeneration in a rat model of retinitis pigmentosa.

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720-3190, USA.
Molecular Therapy (Impact Factor: 6.43). 04/2011; 19(9):1602-8. DOI: 10.1038/mt.2011.62
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Mutations in over 80 identified genes can induce apoptosis in photoreceptors, resulting in blindness with a prevalence of 1 in 3,000 individuals. This broad genetic heterogeneity of disease impacting a wide range of photoreceptor functions renders the design of gene-specific therapies for photoreceptor degeneration impractical and necessitates the development of mutation-independent treatments to slow photoreceptor cell death. One promising strategy for photoreceptor neuroprotection is neurotrophin secretion from Müller cells, the primary retinal glia. Müller glia are excellent targets for secreting neurotrophins as they span the entire tissue, ensheath all neuronal populations, are numerous, and persist through retinal degeneration. We previously engineered an adeno-associated virus (AAV) variant (ShH10) capable of efficient and selective glial cell transduction through intravitreal injection. ShH10-mediated glial-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) secretion from glia, generates high GDNF levels in treated retinas, leading to sustained functional rescue for over 5 months. This GDNF secretion from glia following intravitreal vector administration is a safe and effective means to slow the progression of retinal degeneration in a rat model of retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and shows significant promise as a gene therapy to treat human retinal degenerations. These findings also demonstrate for the first time that glia-mediated secretion of neurotrophins is a promising treatment that may be applicable to other neurodegenerative conditions.

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