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

Vasco Meneghini, G Frati, D Sala, Silvia De Cicco, M Luciani, C Cavazzin, M Paulis, W Mentzen, F Morena, S Giannelli, F Sanvito, A Villa, A Bulfone, V Broccoli, S Martino, A Gritti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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. SIGNIFICANCE: The development of effective and safe neural stem cell-based therapies will depend on procedures that yield well-characterized and expandable autologous cell lines suitable for transplantation that could meet stringent safety criteria and bypass ethical concerns. This study showed that bona fide neural stem cells generated via somatic cell reprogramming from fibroblasts of patients affected by a genetic demyelinating lysosomal storage disease can be safely and efficiently engineered and may serve as a stable source of therapeutic enzyme to ameliorate pathology upon intracerebral transplantation and oligodendroglial differentiation in a relevant animal model of the disease. ©AlphaMed Press.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)352-368
Number of pages17
JournalStem cells translational medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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