Gene therapy can restore vision after stroke – NovLink

Journal Reference:

  1. Yu Tang, Qiuyu Wu, Mang Gao, Esther Ryu, Zifei Pei, Samuel T. Kissinger, Yuchen Chen, Abhinav K. Rao, Zongqin Xiang, Tao Wang, Wen Li, Gong Chen, Alexander A. Chubykin. Restoration of Visual Function and Cortical Connectivity After Ischemic Injury Through NeuroD1-Mediated Gene Therapy. Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology, 2021; 9 DOI: 10.3389/fcell.2021.720078

Neurons don’t regenerate. The brain can sometimes remap its neural pathways enough to restore some visual function after a stroke, but that process is slow, it’s 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 efficient and much more promising.

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

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

Gene therapy can restore vision after stroke