Neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) include a broad spectrum of disorders that disrupt normal brain development. Though some NDDs are caused by acquired insults (i.e., toxic or infectious encephalopathy) or may be cryptogenic, many NDDs are caused by variants in a single gene or groups of genes that disrupt neuronal development or function. In this review, we will focus on those NDDs with a genetic etiology. The exact mechanism, timing, and progression of the molecular pathology are seldom well known; however, the abnormalities in development typically manifest in similar patterns such as delays or regression in motor function, social skills, and language or cognitive abilities. Severity of impairment can vary widely. At present, only symptomatic treatments are available to manage seizures and behavioral problems commonly seen in NDDs. In recent years, there has been a rapid expansion of research into gene therapy using adeno-associated viruses (AAVs). Using AAVs as vectors to replace the non- or dysfunctional gene in vivo is a relatively simple model which has created an unprecedented opportunity for the future of NDD treatment. Advances in this field are of paramount importance as NDDs lead to a massive lifelong burden of disease on the affected individuals and families. In this article, we review the unique advantages and challenges of AAV gene therapies. We then look at potential applications of gene therapy for 3 of the more common NDDs (Rett syndrome, fragile X syndrome, and Angelman syndrome), as well as 2 less common NDDs (SLC13A5 deficiency disorder and SLC6A1-related disorder). We will review the available natural history of each disease and current state of preclinical studies including a discussion on the application of AAV gene therapies for each disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)230-240
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021


  • Angelman syndrome
  • Fragile X syndrome
  • Gene therapy
  • Neurodevelopmental disorder
  • Rett syndrome
  • SLC13A5
  • SLC6A1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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