Murine neural stem cells (mNSCs), either naive or genetically modified to express supranormal levels of β-galactocerebrosidase (GALC), were transplanted into the brain of Twitcher mice, a murine model of globoid cell leukodystrophy, a severe sphingolipidosis. Cells engrafted long-term into the host cytoarchitecture, producing functional GALC. Levels of enzyme activity in brain and spinal cord tissues were enhanced when GALC-overexpressing NSC were used. Enzymatic correction correlated with reduced tissue storage, decreased activation of astroglia and microglia, delayed onset of symptoms, and longer lifespan. Mechanisms underlying the therapeutic effect of mNSC included widespread enzyme distribution, cross-correction of host cells, anti-inflammatory activity, and neuroprotection. Similar cell engraftment and metabolic correction were reproduced using human NSC. Thus, NSC gene therapy rapidly reconstitutes sustained and long-lasting enzyme activity in central nervous system tissues. Combining this approach with treatments targeting the systemic disease associated with leukodystrophies may provide significant therapeutic benefit.
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