Study: RNA repair shows promise in reversing mutations underlying a neurological disorder

July 14, 2020

Scientists successfully edited RNA in a living animal in such a way that the repaired RNA then corrected a mutation in a protein that gives rise to a debilitating neurological disorder in people known as Rett syndrome.

The advance by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University publishes in the journal Cell Reports.

"This is the first example of using programmable RNA editing to repair a gene in mouse models of a neurological disease," said senior author Gail Mandel, Ph.D., senior scientist in the OHSU Vollum Institute. "This gives us an approach that has some traction."

Rett syndrome is a debilitating neurological disorder caused by mutations in the gene that codes the protein MeCP2. The disease occurs almost exclusively in girls, affecting an estimated 1 in 10,000 live births, due to the fact that it's located on the X chromosome.

Mandel and co-authors, led by postdoctoral fellow John Sinnamon, Ph.D., have been focused on engineering a way to repair the mutated MeCP2 protein at the level of RNA, or ribonucleic acid, which acts as a messenger that carries instructions from DNA to control the synthesis of proteins.

Other scientists have used the programmable RNA editing repair technique to target muscular dystrophy and even hearing loss in genetically engineered mice.

However, this is the first demonstration that the technique holds promise in neurological disorders rooted in genetic mutations spread across thousands of different cell types in the brain. The nervous system poses more challenges for this technique than diseases of other organs, such as muscle or liver, which have much less cellular heterogeneity.

The new study targeted and repaired the MeCP2 protein across a variety of cell types, a scientific first.

"We repaired the MeCP2 protein in three different distinct populations of neurons," Mandel said. "So it's possible that it would work throughout the brain, assuming we can deliver the editing components in a widespread manner."

Previous landmark research led by Adrian Bird, Ph.D., with the University of Edinburgh revealed it was possible to reverse Rett-like symptoms in mice, suggesting it may be possible in people, too.

"For that reason, Rett syndrome is an ideal test case for this technique," Mandel said.

While the OHSU research shows that RNA repair holds promise as a proof of concept, Mandel emphasized that much more research needs to be done to test whether it reverses Rett-like behaviors in mice, and to improve the efficiency and specificity of the repair.
-end-
This work was supported by a Director's Transformative Research award from the National Institutes of Health, award number NS087726, (PIs Mandel Brehm & Adelman, OHSU, and Rosenthal, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts), NIH award number R01 NS088399 to GM, NIH award number R01 NS088399 to H.N., and grants from the Rett Syndrome Research Trust to GM and JS.

In the interest of ensuring the integrity of our research and as part of our commitment to public transparency, OHSU actively regulates, tracks and manages relationships that our researchers may hold with entities outside of OHSU. In regard to this research, Mandel and OHSU hold equity in Vico Therapeutics, a company that may have a commercial interest in the results of this research and technology. Sinnamon and Mandel are co-inventors on a provisional patent for the technology. Review details of OHSU's conflict of interest program to find out more about how we manage these business relationships.

Oregon Health & Science University

Related Rett Syndrome Articles from Brightsurf:

Proteins -- and labs -- coming together to prevent Rett syndrome
Two labs investigated whether the disruption of one protein's condensate-forming ability contributes to Rett syndrome.

Genetic editing milestone in mouse model of Rett Syndrome
A genomic error that causes Rett Syndrome, a serious lifelong neurological disorder, can be corrected in the brains of mice by rewriting the genetic instructions carried by the RNA.

Yale researchers find potential treatment for Rett Syndrome
An experimental cancer drug can extend the life of mice with Rett Syndrome, a devastating genetic disorder that afflicts about one of every 10,000 to 15,000 girls within 6 to 18 months after birth, Yale researchers report June 10 in the journal Molecular Cell.

Research team investigates abnormal neuron activity in Rett syndrome
Research by Billy Lau, a postdoctoral researcher working with Assistant Professor Keerthi Krishnan at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, examines the time during which an adult female mouse first learns to recognize and respond to the distress cries of young mouse pups as an opportunity for the brain to rewire and learn again.

A dietary supplement improves skills of an atypical Rett syndrome patient
Administration of the amino acid L-serine, a dietary supplement, contributes to the improvement of the communicative and motor skills of a patient with a mutation that alters glutamate receptors.

A new drug shows preclinical efficacy in Rett syndrome
A new article published in the Cell Reports describes how a new drug is able to reduce the symptoms and activate the dormant neurons characteristic of Rett Syndrome in preclinical models.

X chromosome reactivation could treat Rett syndrome, other X-linked disorders
A study from a team of Massachusetts General Hospital investigators points toward a potential strategy for treating X-linked disorders -- those caused by mutations in the X chromosome -- in females.

Discovery fuels hope for Rett syndrome treatment
Vanderbilt University researchers have relieved symptoms of Rett syndrome in a mouse model with a small molecule that works like the dimmer switch in an electrical circuit.

Drug improves brain performance in Rett syndrome mice
A brain penetrant drug -- a small-molecule mimetic of BDNF, or brain derived neurotrophic factor -- is able to improve brain performance in Rett syndrome mice -- specifically synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus and object location memory.

Small-molecule therapeutic boosts spatial memory and motor function in Rett syndrome mice
Rett syndrome is a neurological disorder affecting learning and development, caused by a mutation in the MECP2 gene triggering decreased levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

Read More: Rett Syndrome News and Rett Syndrome Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.