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Bone marrow transplantation stimulates neural repair in Friedreich's ataxia mice

OBJECTIVES:Friedreich's ataxia is an incurable inherited neurological disease caused by frataxin deficiency. Here we report the neuro-reparative effects of myeloablative allogeneic bone marrow transplantation in a humanised murine model of the disease.
METHODS:Mice received a transplant of fluorescently-tagged sex mis-matched bone marrow cells expressing wild-type frataxin and were assessed at monthly intervals using a range of behavioural motor performance tests. At six months post-transplant, mice were sacrificed for protein and histological analysis. In an attempt to augment numbers of bone marrow-derived cells integrating within the nervous system and improve therapeutic efficacy, a sub-group of transplanted mice also received monthly subcutaneous infusions of cytokines granulocyte-colony stimulating factor and stem cell factor.
RESULTS:Transplantation caused improvements in several indicators of motor coordination and locomotor activity. Elevations in frataxin levels and anti-oxidant defences were detected. Abrogation of disease pathology throughout the nervous system was apparent, together with extensive integration of bone marrow-derived cells in areas of nervous tissue injury that contributed genetic material to mature neurons, satellite-like cells and myelinating Schwann cells by processes including cell fusion. Elevations in circulating bone marrow-derived cell numbers were detected post-cytokine administration and were associated with increased frequencies of Purkinje cell fusion and bone marrow-derived dorsal root ganglion satellite-like cells. Further improvements in motor coordination and activity were evident.
INTERPRETATION:Our data provide proof-of-concept of gene replacement therapy, via allogeneic bone marrow transplantation, that reverses neurological features of Friedreich's ataxia with the potential for rapid clinical translation.

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Jane Larkindale

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