Recombinant lentiviral vectors (rLV) are powerful tools for gene transfer to the central nervous system (CNS) and hold great potential as a therapeutic gene therapy strategy for neurological disorders. Recent data indicate that rLVs are suitable for functional studies in the CNS by over expression or knock down of specific proteins. Based on a variety of lentiviruses species, different vector systems have been developed. However, the most commonly used rLV vector is based on the human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1). Here we describe the use of such vectors to achieve cell-specific transgene expression in the brain. In this setting, rLVs are versatile tools both due to their relatively large cloning capacity and their ability to transduce non-dividing cells. Furthermore, we discuss the preclinical development of gene therapy based on enzyme replacement and/or delivery of neurotrophic factors for neurodegenerative diseases and CNS manifestations of lysosomal storage diseases. Neuroprotective strategies that aim to deliver glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor and ciliary neurotrophic factor for Parkinsons and Huntingtons diseases in particular have been documented with success in appropriate animal models. More recently, rLVs were shown to be suitable to express small interfering RNA for treatment in models of Alzheimers disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Finally, we present a review of the use of rLVs to model neurodegenerative diseases. rLVs have proven to be a very versatile tool to create genetic models of both Parkinsons and Huntingtons diseases and thus provide possibilities to study complex genetic interactions in otherwise wild-type animals evading the necessity to create transgenic mice. Moreover, the potential of these vectors in the development of gene therapy to treat neurological disorders is considerable, which is supported by the fact that clinical trials using rLVs are underway.
Keywords: Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, neurotrophic factors, GDNF, CNTF, RNA interference, disease modeling, enzyme replacement
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