Lentiviral-mediated gene transfer to the sheep brain: implications for gene therapy in Batten disease.
The neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses (NCLs; Batten disease) are inherited neurodegenerative lysosomal storage diseases with common clinical features of blindness and seizures culminating in premature death. Gene-therapy strategies for these diseases depend on whether the missing activity is a secreted lysosomal protein taken up by neighboring cells, or an intramembrane protein that requires careful targeting. Therapies are best developed in animal models with large complex human-like brains. Lentiviral-mediated gene delivery to neural cell cultures from normal sheep and sheep affected with an NCL resulted in green fluorescent protein (GFP) expression in neurons and neuroblasts, more efficiently than in astrocytes. Similar transgene expression was obtained from two constitutive promoters, the viral MND promoter and the human EF1α promoter. In vivo studies showed stable and persistent GFP expression throughout the cell bodies, axons, and dendrites from intracortical injections and indicated ependymal and subependymal transduction. The sheep showed no ill effects from the injections. These data support continuing gene-therapy trials in the sheep models of Batten disease.