Studies of a therapy designed to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) suggest that the treatment dramatically slows onset and progression of the deadly disease, one of the most common neuromuscular disorders in the world. The researchers, led by teams from The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital and the Ludwig Institute at the University of California, San Diego, found a survival increase of up to 39 percent in animal models with a one-time treatment, a crucial step toward moving the therapy into human clinical trials.
The therapy reduces expression of a gene called SOD1, which in some cases of familial ALS has a mutation that weakens and kills nerve cells called motor neurons that control muscle movement. While many drug studies involve only one type of animal model, this effort included analysis in two different models treated before and after disease onset. The in-depth study could vault the drug into human clinical trials, said Brian Kaspar, PhD, a principal investigator in the Center for Gene Therapy at Nationwide Children's and a senior author on the research, which was published online Sept. 6 in Molecular Therapy.
"We designed these rigorous studies using two different models of the disease with the experimenters blinded to the treatment and in two separate laboratories," said Dr. Kaspar, who collaborated on the study with a team led by Don Cleveland, PhD, at the University of California, San Diego. "We were very pleased with the results, and found that the delivery approach was successful in a larger species, enabling us to initiate a clinical translational plan for this horrible disease."
There currently is no cure for ALS, also called Lou Gehrig's disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are about 5,000 new cases in the U.S. each year, mostly in people age 50 to 60. Although the exact cause of ALS is unknown, more than 170 mutations in the SOD1 gene have been fou
|Contact: Gina Bericchia|
Nationwide Children's Hospital