We examined the utility of herpes simplex virus (HSV) vector-mediated gene transfer of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in a mouse model of diabetic neuropathy. A replication-incompetent HSV vector with VEGF under the control of the HSV ICP0 promoter (vector T0VEGF) was constructed. T0VEGF expressed and released VEGF from primary dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons in vitro, and following subcutaneous inoculation in the foot, expressed VEGF in DRG and nerve in vivo. At 2 weeks after induction of diabetes, subcutaneous inoculation of T0VEGF prevented the reduction in sensory nerve amplitude characteristic of diabetic neuropathy measured 4 weeks later, preserved autonomic function measured by pilocarpine-induced sweating, and prevented the loss of nerve fibers in the skin and reduction of neuropeptide calcitonin gene-related peptide and substance P in DRG neurons of the diabetic mice. HSV-mediated transfer of VEGF to DRG may prove useful in treatment of diabetic neuropathy.
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