Adult mammalian brains have largely lost neuroregeneration capability except for a few niches. Previous studies have converted glial cells into neurons, but the total number of neurons generated is limited and the therapeutic potential is unclear. Here, we demonstrate that NeuroD1-mediated in situ astrocyte-to-neuron conversion can regenerate a large number of functional new neurons after ischemic injury. Specifically, using NeuroD1 adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based gene therapy, we were able to regenerate one third of the total lost neurons caused by ischemic injury and simultaneously protect another one third of injured neurons, leading to a significant neuronal recovery. RNA sequencing and immunostaining confirmed neuronal recovery after cell conversion at both the mRNA level and protein level. Brain slice recordings found that the astrocyte-converted neurons showed robust action potentials and synaptic responses at 2 months after NeuroD1 expression. Anterograde and retrograde tracing revealed long-range axonal projections from astrocyte-converted neurons to their target regions in a time-dependent manner. Behavioral analyses showed a significant improvement of both motor and cognitive functions after cell conversion. Together, these results demonstrate that in vivo cell conversion technology through NeuroD1-based gene therapy can regenerate a large number of functional new neurons to restore lost neuronal functions after injury.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Medicine
- Molecular Biology
- Drug Discovery