Translating Antisense Technology into a Treatment for Huntington’s Disease

  • Roger M. LaneEmail author
  • Anne Smith
  • Tiffany Baumann
  • Marc Gleichmann
  • Dan Norris
  • C. Frank Bennett
  • Holly Kordasiewicz
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1780)


Advances in molecular biology and genetics have been used to elucidate the fundamental genetic mechanisms underlying central nervous system (CNS) diseases, yet disease-modifying therapies are currently unavailable for most CNS conditions. Antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) are synthetic single stranded chains of nucleic acids that bind to a specific sequence on ribonucleic acid (RNA) and regulate posttranscriptional gene expression. Decreased gene expression with ASOs might be able to reduce production of the disease-causing protein underlying dominantly inherited neurodegenerative disorders. Huntington’s disease (HD), which is caused by a CAG repeat expansion in exon 1 of the huntingtin (HTT) gene and leads to the pathogenic expansion of a polyglutamine (PolyQ ) tract in the N terminus of the huntingtin protein (Htt), is a prime candidate for ASO therapy.

State-of-the art translational science techniques can be applied to the development of an ASO targeting HTT RNA, allowing for a data-driven, stepwise progression through the drug development process. A deep and wide-ranging understanding of the basic, preclinical, clinical, and epidemiologic components of drug development will improve the likelihood of success. This includes characterizing the natural history of the disease, including evolution of biomarkers indexing the underlying pathology; using predictive preclinical models to assess the putative gain-of-function of mutant Htt protein and any loss-of-function of the wild-type protein; characterizing toxicokinetic and pharmacodynamic effects of ASOs in predictive animal models; developing sensitive and reliable biomarkers to monitor target engagement and effects on pathology that translate from animal models to patients with HD; establishing a drug delivery method that ensures reliable distribution to relevant CNS tissue; and designing clinical trials that move expeditiously from proof of concept to proof of efficacy. This review focuses on the translational science techniques that allow for efficient and informed development of an ASO for the treatment of HD.


Antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) Gene silencing Huntington’s disease Huntingtin protein Huntingtin gene (HTTRibose nucleic acid (RNA) Translational neuroscience 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roger M. Lane
    • 1
    Email author
  • Anne Smith
    • 1
  • Tiffany Baumann
    • 1
  • Marc Gleichmann
    • 1
  • Dan Norris
    • 1
  • C. Frank Bennett
    • 1
  • Holly Kordasiewicz
    • 1
  1. 1.Ionis PharmaceuticalsCarlsbadUSA

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