Generation of Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Bona Fide Neural Stem Cells for Ex Vivo Gene Therapy of Metachromatic Leukodystrophy

Vasco Meneghini, Giacomo Frati, Davide Sala, Silvia De Cicco, Marco Luciani, Chiara Cavazzin, Marianna Paulis, Wieslawa Mentzen, Francesco Morena, Serena Giannelli, Francesca Sanvito, Anna Villa, Alessandro Bulfone, Vania Broccoli, Sabata Martino, Angela Gritti

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Allogeneic fetal-derived human neural stem cells (hfNSCs) that are under clinical evaluation for several neurodegenerative diseases display a favorable safety profile, but require immunosuppression upon transplantation in patients. Neural progenitors derived from patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) may be relevant for autologous ex vivo gene-therapy applications to treat genetic diseases with unmet medical need. In this scenario, obtaining iPSC-derived neural stem cells (NSCs) showing a reliable "NSC signature" is mandatory. Here, we generated human iPSC (hiPSC) clones via reprogramming of skin fibroblasts derived from normal donors and patients affected by metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD), a fatal neurodegenerative lysosomal storage disease caused by genetic defects of the arylsulfatase A (ARSA) enzyme. We differentiated hiPSCs into NSCs (hiPS-NSCs) sharing molecular, phenotypic, and functional identity with hfNSCs, which we used as a "gold standard" in a side-by-side comparison when validating the phenotype of hiPS-NSCs and predicting their performance after intracerebral transplantation. Using lentiviral vectors, we efficiently transduced MLD hiPSCs, achieving supraphysiological ARSA activity that further increased upon neural differentiation. Intracerebral transplantation of hiPS-NSCs into neonatal and adult immunodeficient MLD mice stably restored ARSA activity in the whole central nervous system. Importantly, we observed a significant decrease of sulfatide storage when ARSA-overexpressing cells were used, with a clear advantage in those mice receiving neonatal as compared with adult intervention. Thus, we generated a renewable source of ARSA-overexpressing iPSC-derived bona fide hNSCs with improved features compared with clinically approved hfNSCs. Patient-specific ARSA-overexpressing hiPS-NSCs may be used in autologous ex vivo gene therapy protocols to provide long-lasting enzymatic supply in MLD-affected brains. Stem Cells Translational Medicine 2017;6:352-368.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)352-368
Number of pages17
JournalStem cells translational medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017


  • Journal Article


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