Synaptic disorganization is a prominent feature of many neurological diseases of the CNS, including Parkinson’s disease, intellectual development disorders, and autism. Although synaptic plasticity is critical for learning and memory, it is unclear whether this innate property helps restore synaptic function in disease once the primary cause of disease is abrogated. An answer to this question may come from a recent investigation in X-linked retinoschisis, a currently untreatable retinopathy. In this issue of the JCI, Ou, Vijayasarathy, and colleagues showed progressive disorganization of key functional elements of the synapse between photoreceptors and ON-bipolar cells in a retinoschisin-deficient mouse model. Moreover, they demonstrated that adeno-associated virus–mediated (AAV-mediated) delivery of the retinoschisin gene restores structure and function to the photoreceptor to ON–bipolar cell synapse in mouse models, even in adults at advanced stages of the disease. The results of this study hold promise that AAV-based supplemental gene therapy will benefit patients with X-linked retinoschisis in a forthcoming clinical trial.
Timm Schubert, Bernd Wissinger
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