Curr Opin Neurol. 2003 Jun;16(3):385-92
Furlan R, Pluchino S, Martino G.
Neuroimmunology Unit (DIBIT) and Department of Neurology and Neurophysiology, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milan, Italy.
PURPOSE OF REVIEW:
Gene therapy protocols aimed to deliver therapeutic molecules into the central nervous system may represent an alternative therapeutic strategy in patients affected by inflammatory demyelinating diseases of the central nervous system where systemic therapies have shown limited therapeutic efficacy possibly owing to the blood-brain barrier, a major obstacle for the entry of therapeutic molecules into the central nervous system.
Among inflammatory demyelinating diseases of the central nervous system, gene therapy approaches have been so far developed almost exclusively for multiple sclerosis.
However, the chronic/relapsing nature of the disease, the restriction to the central nervous system of the pathological process as well as the necessity to inhibit the ongoing inflammatory process but also to foster endogenous remyelinating pathways, have posed several questions which still need to be properly addressed for the development of a successful gene therapy strategy in multiple sclerosis patients.
The gene therapy approaches for multiple sclerosis have been so far developed and tested only in rodents and monkeys with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, the animal model of multiple sclerosis.
The results of these studies clearly indicate that the delivery of therapeutic genes within the central nervous system is superior to the peripheral delivery.
In particular, the intracerebral delivery of genes coding for anti-inflammatory and/or neurotrophic molecules, using gene vectors derived from non-replicative viruses, showed to inhibit not only the detrimental function of blood-borne mononuclear effector cells but also to foster proliferation and differentiation of surviving oligodendrocytes within demyelinated areas.
Here, we summarize the most recent findings of this novel area of research.