Skipping multiple exons of dystrophin transcripts using cocktail antisense oligonucleotides

Yusuke Echigoya, Toshifumi Yokota
Nucleic Acid Therapeutics 2014, 24 (1): 57-68
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is one of the most common and lethal genetic disorders, with 20,000 children per year born with DMD globally. DMD is caused by mutations in the dystrophin (DMD) gene. Antisense-mediated exon skipping therapy is a promising therapeutic approach that uses short DNA-like molecules called antisense oligonucleotides (AOs) to skip over/splice out the mutated part of the gene to produce a shortened but functional dystrophin protein. One major challenge has been its limited applicability. Multiple exon skipping has recently emerged as a potential solution. Indeed, many DMD patients need exon skipping of multiple exons in order to restore the reading frame, depending on how many base pairs the mutated exon(s) and adjacent exons have. Theoretically, multiple exon skipping could be used to treat approximately 90%, 80%, and 98% of DMD patients with deletion, duplication, and nonsense mutations, respectively. In addition, multiple exon skipping could be used to select deletions that optimize the functionality of the truncated dystrophin protein. The proof of concept of systemic multiple exon skipping using a cocktail of AOs has been demonstrated in dystrophic dog and mouse models. Remaining challenges include the insufficient efficacy of systemic treatment, especially for therapies that target the heart, and limited long-term safety data. Here we review recent preclinical developments in AO-mediated multiple exon skipping and discuss the remaining challenges.

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