Research ArticleGene Therapy

Long-Term Follow-Up After Gene Therapy for Canavan Disease

Science Translational Medicine  19 Dec 2012:
Vol. 4, Issue 165, pp. 165ra163
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003454

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Gene Therapy for Canavan Disease

Canavan disease is a fatal childhood neurodegenerative disorder for which there is no effective treatment. It is caused by a defect in a single gene (ASPA) that results in a deleterious buildup of N-acetyl-aspartate in the brain. This process starts at birth and is accompanied by a failure to form and maintain myelin, the protective sheath surrounding nerves. As a brain-specific disorder with simple Mendelian inheritance, Canavan disease represents an excellent target for enzyme replacement using gene therapy. Leone et al. now report the long-term results of gene therapy in 13 Canavan disease patients using adeno-associated viral vector delivery of the ASPA gene. The investigators found that gene therapy was safe and led to a decrease in N-acetyl-aspartate in the brain, together with decreased seizure frequency and clinical stabilization. Clinical stabilization was greatest in the youngest patients. Early detection and treatment with gene therapy–mediated enzyme replacement in the neonatal period may offer the best opportunity for a reduction in symptoms and long-term stabilization in patients with Canavan disease.