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Antisense-mediated exon skipping: A versatile tool with therapeutic and research applications

Aartsma-Rus A, van Ommen GJ
RNA. 2007 Oct;13(10):1609-24. Epub 2007 Aug 7
Antisense-mediated modulation of splicing is one of the few fields where antisense oligonucleotides (AONs) have been able to live up to their expectations. In this approach, AONs are implemented to restore cryptic splicing, to change levels of alternatively spliced genes, or, in case of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), to skip an exon in order to restore a disrupted reading frame. The latter allows the generation of internally deleted, but largely functional, dystrophin proteins and would convert a severe DMD into a milder Becker muscular dystrophy phenotype. In fact, exon skipping is currently one of the most promising therapeutic tools for DMD, and a successful first-in-man trial has recently been completed. In this review the applicability of exon skipping for DMD and other diseases is described. For DMD AONs have been designed for numerous exons, which has given us insight into their mode of action, splicing in general, and splicing of the DMD gene in particular. In addition, retrospective analysis resulted in guidelines for AON design for DMD and most likely other genes as well. This knowledge allows us to optimize therapeutic exon skipping, but also opens up a range of other applications for the exon skipping approach.