Adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors are a promising vehicle for noninvasive gene delivery to the central nervous system via intravenous infusion. However, naturally occurring serotypes have a limited ability to transduce the brain, and translating engineered capsids from mice to nonhuman primates has proved challenging. In this study, the investigators use an mRNA-based directed-evolution strategy in multiple strains of mice as well as a de novo selection in cynomolgus macaques to identify families of engineered vectors with increased potency in the brain and decreased tropism for the liver. The transgene expression capabilities of several engineered vectors were compared and while some of the novel macaque-derived variants significantly outperform AAV9 in transducing the macaque brain following systemic administration, mouse-derived variants-both those identified in this study and those reported by other groups-universally do not. Together, the results of this work introduce a class of primate-derived engineered AAV capsids with increased therapeutic potential and highlight the critical need for using appropriate animal models to both identify and evaluate novel AAVs intended for delivery to the human central nervous system.

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