Alexander disease (AxD) is a devastating leukodystrophy caused by gain of function mutations in GFAP, and the only available treatments are supportive. Recent advances in antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) therapy have demonstrated that transcript targeting can be a successful strategy for human neurodegenerative diseases amenable to this approach. We have previously used mouse models of AxD to show that Gfap-targeted ASO suppresses protein accumulation and reverses pathology; however, the mice have a mild phenotype with no apparent leukodystrophy or overt clinical features and are therefore limited for assessing functional outcomes. In this report we introduce a new rat model of AxD that exhibits hallmark pathology with GFAP aggregation in the form of Rosenthal fibers, widespread astrogliosis, and white matter deficits. These animals develop normally during the first postnatal weeks but fail to thrive after weaning and develop severe motor deficits as they mature, with approximately 15 % dying of unknown cause between 6 to 12 weeks of age. In this model, a single treatment with Gfap-targeted ASO provides long lasting suppression, reverses GFAP pathology, and depending on age of treatment, prevents or mitigates white matter deficits and motor impairment. This is the first report of an animal model of AxD with myelin pathology and motor impairment, recapitulating prominent features of the human disease. We use this model to show that ASO therapy has the potential to not only prevent but also reverse many aspects of disease.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience