These investigators have previously reported that syngeneic hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell (HSPC) transplantation prevented neurodegeneration in the Friedreich's Ataxia (FRDA) mouse model YG8R. This group showed that the mechanism of rescue was mediated by the transfer of the functional frataxin from HSPC-derived microglia/macrophage cells to neurons/myocytes. In this study, the first step toward an autologous HSPC transplantation using the CRISPR-Cas9 system for FRDA is reported. The authors first identified a pair of CRISPR RNAs (crRNAs) that efficiently removes the GAA expansions in human FRDA lymphoblasts, restoring the non-pathologic level of frataxin expression and normalizing mitochondrial activity. They also optimized the gene-editing approach in HSPCs isolated from healthy and FRDA patients' peripheral blood and demonstrated normal hematopoiesis of gene-edited cells in vitro and in vivo. The procedure did not induce cellular toxic effect or major off-target events, but a p53-mediated cell proliferation delay was observed in the gene-edited cells. This study provides the foundation for the clinical translation of autologous transplantation of gene-corrected HSPCs for FRDA.
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