Published on Tue Jul 27 2021

Engineering Viral Vectors for Acoustically Targeted Gene Delivery

Li, H., Heath, J. E., Trippett, J. S., Shapiro, M. G., Szablowski, J. O.

Targeted gene delivery to the brain is a critical tool for neuroscience research and has significant potential to treat human disease. Site-specific delivery of common gene vectors is typically performed via invasive injections. Alternatively, focused ultrasound blood-brain-barrier opening (FUS-BBBO) enables the site

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Abstract

Targeted gene delivery to the brain is a critical tool for neuroscience research and has significant potential to treat human disease. However, the site-specific delivery of common gene vectors such as adeno-associated viruses (AAVs) is typically performed via invasive injections, limiting their scope of research and clinical applications. Alternatively, focused ultrasound blood-brain-barrier opening (FUS-BBBO), performed noninvasively, enables the site-specific entry of AAVs into the brain from systemic circulation. However, when used in conjunction with natural AAV serotypes, this approach has limited transduction efficiency, requires ultrasound parameters close to tissue damage limits, and results in undesirable transduction of peripheral organs. Here, we use high throughput in vivo selection to engineer new AAV vectors specifically designed for local neuronal transduction at the site of FUS-BBBO. The resulting vectors substantially enhance ultrasound-targeted gene delivery and neuronal tropism while reducing peripheral transduction, providing a more than ten-fold improvement in targeting specificity. In addition to enhancing the only known approach to noninvasively target gene delivery to specific brain regions, these results establish the ability of AAV vectors to be evolved for specific physical delivery mechanisms.