CRISPR-cas gene-editing as plausible treatment of neuromuscular and nucleotide-repeat-expansion diseases: A systematic review.

The system of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) and CRISPR-associated proteins (cas) is a new technology that allows easier manipulation of the genome. Its potential to edit genes opened a new door in treatment development for incurable neurological monogenic diseases (NMGDs). The aim of this systematic review was to summarize the findings on the current development of CRISPR-cas for therapeutic purposes in the most frequent NMGDs and provide critical assessment.

Researchers searched the MEDLINE and EMBASE databases, looking for original studies on the use of CRISPR-cas to edit pathogenic variants in models of the most frequent NMGDs, until end of 2017. We included all the studies that met the following criteria: 1. Peer-reviewed study report with explicitly described experimental designs; 2. In vitro, ex vivo, or in vivo study using human or other animal biological systems (including cells, tissues, organs, organisms); 3. focusing on CRISPR as the gene-editing method of choice; and 5. featured at least one NMGD.

They obtained 404 papers from MEDLINE and 513 from EMBASE. After removing the duplicates, we screened 490 papers by title and abstract and assessed them for eligibility. After reading 50 full-text papers, we finally selected 42 for the review.

Here researchers give a systematic summary on the preclinical development of CRISPR-cas for therapeutic purposes in NMGDs. Furthermore, we address the clinical interpretability of the findings, giving a comprehensive overview of the current state of the art. Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy (DMD) paves the way forward, with 26 out of 42 studies reporting different strategies on DMD gene editing in different models of the disease. Most of the strategies aimed for permanent exon skipping by deletion with CRISPR-cas. Successful silencing of the mHTT gene with CRISPR-cas led to successful reversal of the neurotoxic effects in the striatum of mouse models of Huntington’s disease. Many other strategies have been explored, including epigenetic regulation of gene expression, in cellular and animal models of: myotonic dystrophy, Fraxile X syndrome, ataxias, and other less frequent dystrophies. Still, before even considering the clinical application of CRISPR-cas, three major bottlenecks need to be addressed: efficacy, safety, and delivery of the systems. This requires a collaborative approach in the research community, while having ethical considerations in mind.