In vivo genome editing improves motor function and extends survival in a mouse model of ALS

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Science Advances  20 Dec 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 12, eaar3952
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar3952

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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal and incurable neurodegenerative disease characterized by the progressive loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord and brain. In particular, autosomal dominant mutations in the superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) gene are responsible for ~20% of all familial ALS cases. The clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)–CRISPR-associated (Cas9) genome editing system holds the potential to treat autosomal dominant disorders by facilitating the introduction of frameshift-induced mutations that can disable mutant gene function. We demonstrate that CRISPR-Cas9 can be harnessed to disrupt mutant SOD1 expression in the G93A-SOD1 mouse model of ALS following in vivo delivery using an adeno-associated virus vector. Genome editing reduced mutant SOD1 protein by >2.5-fold in the lumbar and thoracic spinal cord, resulting in improved motor function and reduced muscle atrophy. Crucially, ALS mice treated by CRISPR-mediated genome editing had ~50% more motor neurons at end stage and displayed a ~37% delay in disease onset and a ~25% increase in survival compared to control animals. Thus, this study illustrates the potential for CRISPR-Cas9 to treat SOD1-linked forms of ALS and other central nervous system disorders caused by autosomal dominant mutations.

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