Adeno-associated virus-vectored gene therapy for retinal disease.
ABSTRACT Recombinant adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors have become powerful gene delivery tools for the treatment of retinal degeneration in a variety of animal models that mimic corresponding human diseases. AAV vectors possess a number of features that render them ideally suited for retinal gene therapy, including a lack of pathogenicity, minimal immunogenicity, and the ability to transduce postmitotic cells in a stable and efficient manner. In the sheltered environment of the retina, AAV vectors are able to maintain high levels of transgene expression in the retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE), photoreceptors, or ganglion cells for long periods of time after a single treatment. Each cell type can be specifically targeted by choosing the appropriate combination of AAV serotype, promoter, and intraocular injection site. The focus of this review is on examples of AAV-mediated gene therapy in those animal models of inherited retinal degeneration caused by mutations directly affecting the interacting unit formed by photoreceptors and the RPE. In each case discussed, expression of the therapeutic gene resulted in significant recovery of retinal structure and/or visual function. Because of the key role of the vasculature in maintaining a healthy retina, a summary of AAV gene therapy applications in animal models of retinal neovascular diseases is also included.
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ABSTRACT: Background Strategies leading to the long-term suppression of inappropriate ocular angiogenesis are required to avoid the need for repetitive monthly injections for treatment of diseases of the eye, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The present study aimed to develop a strategy for the sustained repression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which is identified as the key player in exudative AMD. Methods We have employed short hairpin (sh)RNAs combined with adeno-associated virus (AAV) delivery to obtain the targeted expression of potent gene-regulatory molecules. Anti-VEGF shRNAs were analyzed in human retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells using Renilla luciferase screening. For in vivo delivery of the most potent shRNA, self-complementary AAV vectors were packaged in serotype 8 capsids (scAAV2/8-hU6-sh9). In vivo efficacy was evaluated either by injection of scAAV2/8-hU6-sh9 into murine hind limb muscles or in a laser-induced murine model of choroidal neovascularization (CNV) following scAAV2/8-hU6-sh9 subretinal delivery. ResultsPlasmids encoding anti-VEGF shRNAs showed efficient knockdown of human VEGF in RPEs. Intramuscular administration led to localized expression and 91% knockdown of endogenous murine (m)VEGF. Subsequently, the ability of AAV2/8-encoded shRNAs to impair vessel formation was evaluated in the murine model of CNV. In this model, the sizes of the CNV were significantly reduced (up to 48%) following scAAV2/8-hU6-sh9 subretinal delivery. Conclusions Using anti-VEGF vectors, we have demonstrated efficient silencing of endogenous mVEGF and showed that subretinal administration of scAAV2/8-hU6-sh9 has the ability to impair vessel formation in an AMD animal model. Thus, AAV-encoded shRNA can be used for the inhibition of neovascularization, leading to the development of sustained anti-VEGF therapy. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.The Journal of Gene Medicine 11/2012; 14(11). · 1.95 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The Rho/ROCK/LIMK pathway is central for the mediation of repulsive environmental signals in the central nervous system. Several studies using pharmacological Rho-associated protein kinase (ROCK) inhibitors have shown positive effects on neurite regeneration and suggest additional pro-survival effects in neurons. However, as none of these drugs is completely target specific, it remains unclear how these effects are mediated and whether ROCK is really the most relevant target of the pathway. To answer these questions, we generated adeno-associated viral vectors to specifically downregulate ROCK2 and LIM domain kinase (LIMK)-1 in rat retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) in vitro and in vivo. We show here that specific knockdown of ROCK2 and LIMK1 equally enhanced neurite outgrowth of RGCs on inhibitory substrates and both induced substantial neuronal regeneration over distances of more than 5 mm after rat optic nerve crush (ONC) in vivo. However, only knockdown of ROCK2 but not LIMK1 increased survival of RGCs after optic nerve axotomy. Moreover, knockdown of ROCK2 attenuated axonal degeneration of the proximal axon after ONC assessed by in vivo live imaging. Mechanistically, we demonstrate here that knockdown of ROCK2 resulted in decreased intraneuronal activity of calpain and caspase 3, whereas levels of pAkt and collapsin response mediator protein 2 and autophagic flux were increased. Taken together, our data characterize ROCK2 as a specific therapeutic target in neurodegenerative diseases and demonstrate new downstream effects of ROCK2 including axonal degeneration, apoptosis and autophagy. Cell Death and Disease (2014) 5, e1225; doi:10.1038/cddis.2014.191; published online 15 May 2014 Subject Category: Neuroscience The restorative capacity of the adult mammalian central nervous system (CNS) is severely limited and the inability to re-establish intact axonal projections results in persistent functional deficits following acute traumatic insults to the CNS or in chronic neurodegenerative disorders. Multiple factors hamper the regenerative response of lesioned CNS neurons: degenerative processes, such as neuronal apoptosis and axonal degeneration, lead to the loss of the regenerative substrate, whereas a reduced intrinsic growth state coupled with an inhibitory environment attenuates potential regenera-tive attempts.Cell Death & Disease 05/2014; · 5.18 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The state of areﬂexia and muscle weakness that immediately follows a spinal cord injury (SCI) is gradually replaced by the recovery of neuronal and network excitability, leading to both improvements in residual motor function and the development of spasticity. In this review we summarize recent animal and human studies that describe how motoneurons and their activation by sensory pathways become hyperexcitable to compensate for the reduction of functional activation of the spinal cord and the eventual impact on the muscle. Speciﬁcally, decreases in the inhibitory control of sensory transmission and increases in intrinsic motoneuron excitability are described. We present the idea that replacing lost patterned activation of the spinal cord by activating synaptic inputs via assisted movements, pharmacology or electrical stimulation may help to recover lost spinal inhibition. This may lead to a reduction of uncontrolled activation of the spinal cord and thus, improve its controlled activation by synaptic inputs to ultimately normalize circuit function. Increasing the excitation of the spinal cord with spared descending and/or peripheral inputs by facilitating movement, instead of suppressing it pharmacologically, may provide the best avenue to improve residual motor function and manage spasticity after SCI.Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience 05/2014; 8.