Institutes

Gene and neural stem cell therapy for lysosomal storage diseases

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Head of Unit

Angela Gritti

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Leukodystrophies (metachromatic leukodystrophy, MLD; globoid cell leukodystrophy, GLD) and GM2 gangliosidosis belong to the wider class of Lysosomal Storage Diseases (LSD), in which deficiency of specific lysosomal enzymes results in storage of undegraded macromolecules in lysosomes, functional impairment and cell death. Many of them display severe involvement of the central nervous system and consequent neurodegeneration.

Previous and current studies of this Unit aims to study mechanisms of disease pathogenesis and develop novel gene therapy (GT) approaches for these LSD that despite the shared multi-organ pathology display unique features, likely translating in different treatment requirements and/or different outcome of a given treatment.

Research activity

Based on promising pre-clinical and clinical data showing the therapeutic potential of GT in LSD, it is expected that combinatorial strategies addressing the complex LSD pathology and ensuring appropriate timing of intervention at different disease sites would become of increasing interest in the perspective of clinical translation. The long-term goal is to enhance and complement the unique treatment modality provided by GT (i.e. the advantages of enzyme overexpression and widespread biodistribution) to develop innovative and safer therapeutic strategies addressing the specific requirements posed by severe LSD that still lack effective curative options.
To this end, a better understanding of the pathogenic events underlying disease onset/progression and of the therapeutic mechanisms of disease correction upon treatments is required. To address this issue researchers are exploiting several in vitro experimental setting, including neural stem cell cultures as well as patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which will offer an unprecedented opportunity to model the disease and to test novel gene transfer strategies.