Gene therapy blocks peripheral nerve damage in mice

ScienceDaily | 1/17/2019 | Staff
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Now, scientists have developed a gene therapy that blocks this process, preventing axon destruction in mice and suggesting a therapeutic strategy that could help prevent the loss of peripheral nerves in multiple conditions.

The study, from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, appears in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Strategy - Neuropathy - Disease - People - United

The strategy could help prevent peripheral neuropathy, a disease that currently affects about 20 million people in the United States. Peripheral neuropathy can result from chemotherapy for cancer treatment or poorly controlled diabetes, and it causes persistent pain, numbness, burning, itching and muscle weakness.

"Peripheral neuropathies are the most common neurodegenerative diseases in the world," said first author Stefanie Geisler, MD, an assistant professor of neurology. "Many peripheral neuropathies are caused by breakdown of nerve fibers, but we currently don't have therapies that can directly block this process. For many neuropathies, we can't halt progression of the disease and are limited to trying to treat the symptoms. We are somewhat successful decreasing neuropathic pain, but it is very difficult to alleviate numbness.

Patients - Neuropathy - Quality - Life - Patients

"I see many patients with chemotherapy-induced neuropathy, and it can severely impact their quality of life," she said. "To benefit patients, we will need to test this treatment in human clinical trials, but our current finding is significant because we have shown for the first time that we can effectively block nerve fiber breakdown in mice with a standard viral gene therapy."

When an axon is injured, whether cut or crushed by injury or damaged by drugs, a protein called SARM1 becomes active. In healthy nerves, this protein is switched off. Past studies by this research team have shown that activated SARM1 triggers axons to self-destruct, kicking off a chain of events that quickly consumes all of a nerve cell's energy supply. The axons of such cells break into pieces.

Study

In this study,...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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