Gene therapy approach on Charcot-Marie-Tooth type 1A rats

Abstract : Myelin, a tissue synthesized by Schwann cells, covers and protects nerves. If damaged, it causes many demyelinating diseases such as the inherited peripheral nervous system disorder Charcot Marie Tooth or CMT type 1. CMT neuropathies display a large variability from one patient to another. Nevertheless, the most common symptoms include muscle weakness, an awkward way of walking (gait), equilibrium problem and highly arched or very flat feet. The most common subtype of CMT is an autosomal dominant disorder known as CMT1A. CMT1A is caused by the duplication of the peripheral myelin protein 22 (PMP22) gene on the short arm of chromosome 17 (17p11.2) resulting in an excess of PMP22. This leads to demyelination. PMP22 is a small protein expressed by Schwann cells. There is still no cure for CMT diseases. One approach for a treatment is gene therapy. The aim of my thesis project was to deliver proof of principle for a gene therapy approach on a CMT1A rat model characterized by extra copies of mouse pmp22 gene (CMT1A rat). The treatment strategy consisted in reducing PMP22 overexpression in CMT1A rats with shRNA against PMP22. Viral vectors like adeno-associated virus (AAV having serotypes from1-10) are used to deliver shRNA in vivo so that they won’t be destroyed by the organism and for them to be long-lasting. Thus, we injected sciatic nerves of 6-7-day-old CMT1A rats with AAV9 expressing shRNA PMP22 with a GFP marker. We first confirmed that the virus highly transduced Schwann cells and that AAV9 shRNA PMP22 decreased PMP22 protein expression in CMT1A rats’ sciatic nerves. CMT1A rats treated with AAV9 shRNA PMP22 showed that they didn’t develop the motor phenotype seen in controls. Moreover, hypoalgesia observed in CMT1A rats was alleviated by treatment. In addition, gene therapy increased the reduced nerve conduction velocity found in CMT1A rats. Concerning safety, no viral off-targets were detected except in muscles close to the injection site (sciatic nerve) and in the dorsal root ganglions. Except for 2 rats, there was no immune response against AAV; no anti-AAV9 neutralizing factors. Consequently, this gene therapy could be used in clinical trials. Before moving to clinical studies, the minimal effective dosage should be very carefully defined because if PMP22 is completely deleted, another disease is caused: Hereditary Neuropathy with Pressure Palsies. It is also crucial to have a strong readout to evaluate the outcome of a treatment. However, no tool consistent enough exists for examining the peripheral nerve. Thus, we tested the label-free imaging technique Coherent Anti-stokes Raman Scattering (CARS) and successfully characterized myelination defects. Consequently, CARS could be used as a consistent outcome measure for developing new therapies for demyelinating peripheral neuropathies.
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Hélène Hajjar. Gene therapy approach on Charcot-Marie-Tooth type 1A rats. Neurobiology. Université Montpellier, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018MONTT027⟩. ⟨tel-02280148⟩

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