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Gene therapies hold great promise for the treatment of many neurodegenerative disorders and traumatic injuries in the central nervous system. However, development of effective methods to deliver such therapies in a controlled manner to the spinal cord is a necessity for their translation to the clinic. Although essential progress has been made to improve efficiency of transgene delivery and reduce the immunogenicity of genetic vectors, there is still much work to be done to achieve clinical strategies capable of reversing neurodegeneration and mediating tissue regeneration. In particular, strategies to achieve localized, robust expression of therapeutic transgenes by target cell types, at controlled levels over defined time periods, will be necessary to fully regenerate functional spinal cord tissues. This review summarizes the progress over the last decade toward the development of effective gene therapies in the spinal cord, including identification of appropriate target genes, improvements to design of genetic vectors, advances in delivery methods, and strategies for delivery of multiple transgenes with synergistic actions. The potential of biomaterials to mediate gene delivery while simultaneously providing inductive scaffolding to facilitate tissue regeneration is also discussed.
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