Antisense oligonucleotides: the next frontier for treatment of neurological disorders

Nat Rev Neurol. 2018 Jan;14(1):9-21. doi: 10.1038/nrneurol.2017.148. Epub 2017 Dec 1.


Antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) were first discovered to influence RNA processing and modulate protein expression over two decades ago; however, progress translating these agents into the clinic has been hampered by inadequate target engagement, insufficient biological activity, and off-target toxic effects. Over the years, novel chemical modifications of ASOs have been employed to address these issues. These modifications, in combination with elucidation of the mechanism of action of ASOs and improved clinical trial design, have provided momentum for the translation of ASO-based strategies into therapies. Many neurological conditions lack an effective treatment; however, as research progressively disentangles the pathogenic mechanisms of these diseases, they provide an ideal platform to test ASO-based strategies. This steady progress reached a pinnacle in the past few years with approvals of ASOs for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy and Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which represent landmarks in a field in which disease-modifying therapies were virtually non-existent. With the rapid development of improved next-generation ASOs toward clinical application, this technology now holds the potential to have a dramatic effect on the treatment of many neurological conditions in the near future.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases / therapy*
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / therapeutic use*
  • Thionucleotides / therapeutic use


  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense
  • Thionucleotides