Combining Timed GDNF and ChABC Gene Therapy to Promote Long-Distance Regeneration Following Ventral Root Avulsion and Repair
Eggers Ruben, Fred de Winter, Lotte Smit, Maruelle Luimens, Elizabeth M Muir, Elizabeth J Bradbury, Martijn R Tannemaat, Joost Verhaagen
Ventral root avulsion leads to severe motoneuron degeneration and prolonged distal nerve denervation. After a critical period, a state of chronic denervation develops as repair Schwann cells lose their pro-regenerative properties and inhibitory factors such as CSPGs accumulate in the denervated nerve. In rats with ventral root avulsion injuries, we combined timed GDNF gene therapy delivered to the proximal nerve roots with the digestion of inhibitory CSPGs in the distal denervated nerve using sustained lentiviral-mediated chondroitinase ABC (ChABC) enzyme expression. Following reimplantation of lumbar ventral roots, timed GDNF-gene therapy enhanced motoneuron survival up to 45 weeks and improved axonal outgrowth, electrophysiological recovery, and muscle reinnervation. Despite a timed GDNF expression period, a subset of animals displayed axonal coils. Lentiviral delivery of ChABC enabled digestion of inhibitory CSPGs for up to 45 weeks in the chronically denervated nerve. ChABC gene therapy alone did not enhance motoneuron survival, but led to improved muscle reinnervation and modest electrophysiological recovery during later stages of the regeneration process. Combining GDNF treatment with digestion of inhibitory CSPGs did not have a significant synergistic effect. This study suggests a delicate balance exists between treatment duration and concentration in order to achieve therapeutic effects.