How gene therapy can restore vision after stroke

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Most strokes occur when an artery in the brain becomes blocked. Blood flow to neural tissue stops and these tissues usually die. Due to the location of the main arteries in the brain, many strokes affect motor function. Some affect vision, however, causing patients to lose vision or find it compromised or impaired. A research team led by Alexander Chubykin of Purdue University, associate professor of biological sciences at the College of Sciences, in collaboration with the team led by Gong Chen at Jinan University, China, has discovered a way to using gene therapy to transform glial brain cells into neurons, restoring visual function and offering hope for a way to restore motor function.

Neurons do not regenerate. The brain can sometimes remap its neural pathways enough to restore some visual function after a stroke, but this process is slow, inefficient, and for some patients it never happens at all. Stem cell therapy, which can help, relies on finding an immune match and is cumbersome and difficult. This new gene therapy, as demonstrated in a mouse model, is more effective and much more promising.

“We directly reprogram local glial cells into neurons,” Chubykin said. “We don’t have to implant new cells, so there is no immunogenic rejection. This process is easier to do than stem cell therapy, and there is less damage to the brain. We help the brain to heal itself. We can see that the connections between the old neurons and the newly reprogrammed neurons are reestablishing themselves. We can watch the mice recover their vision.

Chubykin’s research is particularly important because visual function is easier to measure accurately than motor skills, using techniques such as optical imaging in living mice to track the development and maturation of newly converted neurons over the course of years. weeks. Perfecting and understanding this technique could lead to a similar technique of restoring motor function. This research bridges the gap in understanding between the basic interpretation of neurons and organ function.

The research was published in Frontiers in cell and developmental biology.


New gene therapy reprograms brain glial cells into neurons


More information:
Yu Tang et al, Restoration of Visual Function and Cortical Connectivity After Ischemic Injury Using NeuroD1-Mediated Gene Therapy, Frontiers in cell and developmental biology (2021). DOI: 10.3389 / fcell.2021.720078
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Purdue University

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How Gene Therapy Can Restore Vision After Stroke (2021, September 28)
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