Adeno-associated virus (AAV) is a safe and effective vector for gene therapy for retinal disorders. Gene therapy for hearing disorders is not as advanced, in part because gene delivery to sensory hair cells of the inner ear is inefficient. Although AAV transduces the inner hair cells of the mouse cochlea, outer hair cells remain refractory to transduction. Here, we demonstrate that a vector, exosome-associated AAV (exo-AAV), is a potent carrier of transgenes to all inner ear hair cells. Exo-AAV1-GFP is more efficient than conventional AAV1-GFP, both in mouse cochlear explants in vitro and with direct cochlear injection in vivo. Exo-AAV shows no toxicity in vivo, as assayed by tests of auditory and vestibular function. Finally, exo-AAV1 gene therapy partially rescues hearing in a mouse model of hereditary deafness (lipoma HMGIC fusion partner-like 5/tetraspan membrane protein of hair cell stereocilia [Lhfpl5/Tmhs-/-]). Exo-AAV is a powerful gene delivery system for hair cell research and may be useful for gene therapy for deafness.
Keywords: LHFPL5; TMHS; adeno-associated virus vector; balance; cochlea; exosomes; gene therapy; hair cell; hearing; inner ear.
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