Commentary & View
Therapy for prion diseases: Insights from the use of RNA interference
Volume 3, Issue 3
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Pages 121 - 128http://dx.doi.org/10.4161/pri.3.3.9289
Authors: Melanie D. White and Giovanna R. Mallucci View affiliations
Insights into the molecular basis and the temporal evolution of neurotoxicity in prion disease are increasing, and recent work in mice leads to new avenues for targeting treatment of these disorders. Using lentivirally mediated RNA interference (RNAi) against native prion protein (PrP), White et al report the first therapeutic intervention that results in neuronal rescue, prevents symptoms and increases survival in mice with established prion disease.1 Both the target, and the timing, of treatment here are crucial to the effectiveness of this strategy: the formation of the neurotoxic prion agent is prevented at a point when diseased neurons can still be saved from death. But the data also give new insights into the timing of treatment in the context of the pattern of spread of prion infection throughout the brain, with implications for developing the most effective treatments.
This perspective considers developments in the field that led to the rationale for targeting endogenous prion protein (PrP) in prion therapeutics and to the discovery of a window of reversibility of early neuronal damage in prion disease. It introduces RNA interference (RNAi) and its therapeutic use in this context and discusses insights into prion pathogenesis and future treatment strategies and goals. A key concept is targeting the critical brain regions for the spread of prion replication. This may have relevance in other neurodegenerative diseases due to protein misfolding, which recent literature suggests may also propagate throughout the brain in disease-specific patterns.
Received: July 31, 2009; Accepted: June 16, 2009