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Therapy Yields Promise for Fatal Neurological Condition
Date:5/13/2008

Using harmless cold virus, injecting healthy gene into brain slowed Batten disease

TUESDAY, May 13 (HealthDay News) -- A new gene therapy that involves injecting a harmless virus into the brain shows promise as a safe and effective way to slow Batten disease, a rare neurological disorder that usually becomes fatal between the ages of 8 and 12.

Children with the disease, also known as Late Infantile Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis, are born with a mutated CLN2 gene. This causes a deficiency in TTP-1, an enzyme responsible for ridding cells of the central nervous system of waste materials. Parts of the neurons in the brain cell eventually become clogged with toxic material.

"It's like the garbage man of the cell is not able to do its job," study author Dr. Ronald Crystal, chairman of the Department of Genetic Medicine and chief of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, said in a prepared statement. "The trash keeps getting backed up inside the cell until the cells can no longer function properly and then eventually die throughout the entire brain."

In a clinical trial, reported on in the May 13 online issue of Human Gene Therapy, neurological surgeons created six tiny holes in the skull of a patient, and then injected into the brain a liquid containing the healthy CLN2 gene within the harmless adeno-associated virus (AAV).

"The virus is used as a Trojan horse that houses and then delivers a healthy, functional gene into the cells of the brain," Crystal said. "The genes are incorporated within the genetic material of the cells, which are then able to produce a protein that is deficient in Batten disease."

In following the patients for 18 months after the procedure, the team found the gene therapy safely and effectively slowed the disease's progression.

"Before now, we had no hope of a therapy for Batten di
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