Prion disease refers to a group of fatal transmissible neurodegenerative diseases for which no pharmacological treatment is available. The cellular prion protein (PrPC) is required for both prion replication and pathogenesis, and reducing PrPC levels has been shown to extend survival time after prion infection. RNA interference (RNAi) is a sequence-specific posttranscriptional gene silencing mechanism. In this issue of the JCI, Pfeifer et al. report that lentivector-mediated RNAi significantly reduced neuronal PrPC expression; effectively suppressed accumulation of the infectious protease-resistant form of PrP (PrPSc) in a persistently infected neuroblastoma cell line; and markedly slowed the progression of prion disease in a unique chimeric mouse model (see the related article beginning on page 3204). These findings indicate that lentivector-mediated RNAi could, in principle, be developed for the therapy of prion disease.
RNAi and other strategies for prion disease treatment.