Significant advances have been made over the past few years concerning the cellular and molecular events underlying neuron death. Recently, it is becoming increasingly clear that some of the genes induced during cerebral ischemia may actually serve to rescue the cell from death. However, the injured cell may not be capable of expressing protein at levels high enough to be protective. One of the most exciting arenas of such interventions is the use of viral vectors to deliver potentially neuroprotective genes at high levels. Neurotrophic herpes simplex viral strains are an obvious choice for gene therapy to the brain, and we have utilized bipromoter vectors that are capable of transferring various genes to neurons. Using this system in experimental models of stroke, cardiac arrest and excitotoxicity, we have found that it is possible to enhance neuron survival against such cerebral insults by over-expressing genes that target various facets of injury. These include energy restoration by the glucose transporter (GLUT-1), buffering calcium excess by calbindin, preventing protein malfolding or aggregation by stress proteins and inhibiting apoptotic death by BCL-2. We show that in some cases, gene therapy is also effective after the onset of injury, and also address whether successful gene therapy necessarily spares function. Although gene therapy is limited to the few hundred cells the vector is capable of transfecting, we consider the possibility of such gene therapy becoming relevant to clinical neurology in the future.
View details for Web of Science ID 000169864400016
View details for PubMedID 11474812