Spinal muscular atrophy type 1 (SMA1) is a progressive, monogenic motor neuron disease with an onset during infancy that results in failure to achieve motor milestones and in death or the need for mechanical ventilation by 2 years of age. We studied functional replacement of the mutated gene encoding survival motor neuron 1 (SMN1) in this disease.
Fifteen patients with SMA1 received a single dose of intravenous adeno-associated virus serotype 9 carrying SMN complementary DNA encoding the missing SMN protein. Three of the patients received a low dose (6.7×1013 vg per kilogram of body weight), and 12 received a high dose (2.0×1014 vg per kilogram). The primary outcome was safety. The secondary outcome was the time until death or the need for permanent ventilatory assistance. In exploratory analyses, we compared scores on the CHOP INTEND (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Infant Test of Neuromuscular Disorders) scale of motor function (ranging from 0 to 64, with higher scores indicating better function) in the two cohorts and motor milestones in the high-dose cohort with scores in studies of the natural history of the disease (historical cohorts).
As of the data cutoff on August 7, 2017, all 15 patients were alive and event-free at 20 months of age, as compared with a rate of survival of 8% in a historical cohort. In the high-dose cohort, a rapid increase from baseline in the score on the CHOP INTEND scale followed gene delivery, with an increase of 9.8 points at 1 month and 15.4 points at 3 months, as compared with a decline in this score in a historical cohort. Of the 12 patients who had received the high dose, 11 sat unassisted, 9 rolled over, 11 fed orally and could speak, and 2 walked independently. Elevated serum aminotransferase levels occurred in 4 patients and were attenuated by prednisolone.
In patients with SMA1, a single intravenous infusion of adeno-associated viral vector containing DNA coding for SMN resulted in longer survival, superior achievement of motor milestones, and better motor function than in historical cohorts. Further studies are necessary to confirm the safety and efficacy of this gene therapy. (Funded by AveXis and others; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT02122952.)