Neurological Disorders

Coding Dimension ID: 
303
Coding Dimension path name: 
Neurological Disorders

Common molecular mechanisms in neurodegenerative diseases using patient based iPSC neurons

Funding Type: 
Basic Biology IV
Grant Number: 
RB4-06079
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$1 506 420
Disease Focus: 
Huntington's Disease
Neurological Disorders
Parkinson's Disease
Stem Cell Use: 
iPS Cell
Cell Line Generation: 
iPS Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 
A major medical problem in CA is the growing population of individuals with neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s (PD) and Huntington’s (HD) disease. These diseases affect millions of people, sometimes during the prime of their lives, and lead to total incapacitation and ultimately death. No treatment blocks the progression of neurodegeneration. We propose to conduct fundamental studies to understand the basic common disease mechanisms of neurodegenerative disorders to begin to develop effective treatments for these diseases. Our work will target human stem cells made from cells from patients with HD and PD that are developed into the very cells that degenerate in these diseases, striatal neurons and dopamine neurons, respectively. We will use a highly integrated approach with innovative molecular analysis of gene networks that change the states of proteins in these diseases and state-of-the-art imaging technology to visualize living neurons in a culture dish to assess cause and effect relationships between biochemical changes in the cells and their gradual death. Importantly, we will test whether drugs effective in animal model systems are also effective in blocking the disease mechanisms in the human HD and PD neurons. These human preclinical studies could rapidly lead to clinical testing, since some of the drugs have already been examined extensively in humans in the past for treating other disorders and are safe.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s (PD) and Huntington’s disease (HD), are devastating to patients and families and place a major financial burden on California. No treatments effectively block progression of any neurodegenerative disease. A forward-thinking team effort will allow highly experienced investigators in neurodegenerative disease and stem cell research to investigate common basic mechanisms that cause these diseases. Most important is the translational impact of our studies. We will use neurons and astrocytes derived from patient induced pluripotent stem cells to identify novel targets and discover disease-modifying drugs to block the degenerative process. These can be quickly transitioned to testing in preclinical and clinical trials to treat HD and other neurodegenerative diseases. We are building on an existing strong team of California-based investigators to complete the studies. Future benefits to California citizens include: 1) discovery and development of new HD treatments with application to other diseases, such as PD, that affect thousands of Californians, 2) transfer of new technologies and intellectual property to the public realm with resulting IP revenues to the state with possible creation of new biotechnology spin-off companies, and 3) reductions in extensive care-giving and medical costs. We anticipate the return to the State in terms of revenue, health benefits for its Citizens and job creation will be significant.
Progress Report: 
  • The goal of our study is to identify common mechanisms that cause the degeneration of neurons and lead to most neurodegenerative disorders. Our work focuses on the protein homeostasis pathways that are disrupted in many forms of neurodegeneration, including Huntington’s disease (HD) and Parkinson’s disease (PD). In this first reporting period we have made great progress in developing novel methods to probe the autophagy pathway in single cells. This pathway is involved in the turnover of misfolded proteins and dysfunction organelles. Using our novel autophagy assays, we have preliminary data that indicate that the autophagy pathway in neurons from HD patients is modulated compared to healthy controls. We have also begun validating small molecules that activate the autophagy pathway and we are now moving these inducers into human neurons from HD patients to see if they reduce toxicity or other disease related phenotypes. Using pathway analysis we have also identified specific genes within the proteostasis network that are modulated in HD. We are now testing whether modulating these genes in human neurons from HD patients can lead to a reduction in neurodegeneration. In the final part of this study we are investigating whether neurodegenerative diseases, such as HD and PD, share changes in similar genes or pathways, specifically those involved in protein homeostasis. We have now established a human neuron model for PD and have used it to identify potential targets that modulate the disease phenotype via changes in proteostasis. Using the assays, autophagy drugs and pathway analysis described above, we hope to identify overlapping targets that could potentially rescue disease associated phenotypes in both HD and PD.

Modeling Alexander disease using patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells

Funding Type: 
Basic Biology IV
Grant Number: 
RB4-06277
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$1 367 172
Disease Focus: 
Neurological Disorders
Pediatrics
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 
Alexander disease (AxD) is a devastating childhood disease that affects neural development and causes mental retardation, seizures and spasticity. The most common form of AxD occurs during the first two years of life and AxD children show delayed mental and physical development, and die by the age of six. AxD occurs in diverse ethnic, racial, and geographic groups and there is no cure; the available treatment only temporally relieves symptoms, but not targets the cause of the disease. Previous studies have shown that specific nervous system cells called astrocytes are abnormal in AxD patients. Astrocytes support both nerve cell growth and function, so the defects in AxD astrocytes are thought to lead to the nervous system defects. We want to generate special cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from the skin or blood cells of AxD patients to create an unprecedented, new platform for the study and treatment of AxD. We can grow large quantities of iPSCs in the laboratory and then, using novel methods that we have already established, coax them to develop into AxD astrocytes. We will study these AxD astrocytes to find out how their defects cause the disease, and then use them to validate potential drug targets. In the future, these cells can also be used to screen for new drugs and to test novel treatments. In addition to benefiting AxD children, we expect that our approach and results will benefit the study of other, similar childhood nervous system diseases.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
It is estimated that California has approximately 12% of all US cases of AxD, a devastating childhood neurological disorder that leads to mental retardation and early death. At present, there is no cure or standard treatment available for AxD. Current treatment is symptomatic only. In addition to the tremendous emotional and physical pain that this disease inflicts on Californian families, it adds a medical and fiscal burden larger than that of any other states. Therefore, there is a real need to understand the underlying mechanisms of this disease in order to develop an effective treatment strategy. Stem cells provide great hope for the treatment of a variety of human diseases. Our proposal to establish a stem cell-based cellular model for AxD could lead to the development of new therapies that will represent great potential not only for Californian health care patients, but also for the Californian pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. In addition to benefiting the treatment of AxD patients, we expect that our approach and results will benefit the study of other related neurological diseases that occur in California and the US.
Progress Report: 
  • Alexander disease (AxD) is a devastating childhood disease that affects neural development and causes mental retardation, seizures and spasticity. AxD children usually die by the age of six. AxD occurs in diverse ethnic, racial, and geographic groups and there is no cure; the available treatment only temporally relieves symptoms, but not targets the cause of the disease. Previous studies have shown that specific nervous system cells called astrocytes are abnormal in AxD patients. We generated special cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from the skin cells of AxD patients, and coaxed them to develop into AxD astrocytes. We will study these AxD astrocytes to find out how their defects cause the disease, and then use them to validate potential drug targets. In the future, these cells can also be used to screen for new drugs and to test novel treatments. In addition to benefiting AxD children, we expect that our approach and results will benefit the study of other, similar childhood nervous system diseases.

The HD iPSC Consortium: Repeat Length Dependent Phenotypes for Assay Development

Funding Type: 
iPSC Consortia Award
Grant Number: 
RP1-05741
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$300 000
Disease Focus: 
Huntington's Disease
Neurological Disorders
Stem Cell Use: 
iPS Cell
Cell Line Generation: 
iPS Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Progress Report: 
  • Huntington’s disease (HD) is a significant neurodegenerative disease with unique genetic features. A CAG expansion in Huntington gene is correlated with severity and onset of sub-clinical and overt clinical symptoms, make it particularly suited to therapeutic development . The single genetic cause offers the opportunity to understand the pathological process triggered in all individuals with a CAG expansion, as emerging evidence suggests effects of the mutation in all cell types, though striatal neurons are most vulnerable to degeneration. Moreover, by virtue of a molecular test for the mutation, a unique opportunity exists to intervene/treat before the onset of overt clinical symptoms utilizing sub-clinical phenotypes emerging in pre-manifest individuals. Since human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have the power to make any cell type in the human body, we are utilizing the technology to make patients iPSCs and study the effects of different number of CAG repeats on the neurons we generate from the patient iPS cells. Preliminary studies indicate that CAG length–dependent phenotypes occur at all stages of differentiation, from iPSC through to mature neurons and are likely to occur in non-neuronal cells as well, which can also be investigated using the iPSC that we are creating. The non-integrating technology (avoids integration of potentially deleterious reprogramming factors in the cell DNA) for producing iPSC lines is crucial to obtaining reproducible disease traits from patient cells.
  • The Cedars-Sinai RMI iPSC Core is part of the Huntington’s Disease (HD) consortium. In the past year the iPSC Core has made many new non-integrating induced pluripotent stem (iPSC) cell lines from HD patients with different numbers of CAG repeat expansions. The grant application proposed generation of 18 HD and Control iPSC lines. Instead we are generating 20 iPSC lines. So far we have already generated 17 iPSC lines from individuals with Huntington’s disease and controls (10 HD patients and 7 controls). In order to have the disease trait reproducible across multiple groups, three clonal iPSC lines were generated from each subject. Some of these lines have (or are in process) of expansion for distribution to consortium members. We are now in the process of making the last 3 lines as part of this grant application to generate a HD iPSC repository with total of 20 patient/control lines from subjects with multitude of CAG repeat numbers. Most of these lines have undergone rigorous battery of characterization for pluripotency determination, while some other lines are currently being validated through more characterization tests. Neural stem cell aggregates (EZ spheres) have been generated from few of the patient lines in the Svendsen lab (not supported by this grant). We have also submitted 6 patient iPSC lines to Coriell Cell Repository for larger banking and distribution of these important and resourceful lines to other academic investigators and industry. We strongly believe that this iPSC repository will enormously speed up the process of understanding the disease causing mechanisms in HD patient brain cells as well as discovering novel therapeutics or drugs that may one day be able to treat HD patients.
  • Huntington’s disease (HD) is a fatal neurodegenerative condition with no current treatment. This significant neurodegenerative disease, whose relatively simple and unique known genetic cause, a CAG expansion in the HD gene correlated with severity and onset of clinical symptoms, makes it particularly suited to therapeutic development. The Huntington’s disease (HD) iPS cell consortium, funded with NIH and CIRM support, brings together leading groups in stem cell and HD research to establish whether newly created iPS cell lines show HD related (i.e., CAG length-dependent) phenotypes. Human iPSC technology can be used to generate specific neuronal and glial cell types, permitting investigation of the effects of the genetic lesion in the susceptible human cell types in the context of HD. The monogenic nature of HD and the existence of allelic series of iPSCs with a range of CAG repeat lengths confer tremendous power to model HD. Through CIRM support this consortium has capitalized on new technologies to use non-integrating approaches for reprogramming and promising phenotypes in current HD iPS lines to develop robust and validated assays for drug development for HD.
  • Significant progress has been made through CIRM-funded support of this proposal. Notably, the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Board of iPSC core housed in the Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute has taken skin cells from HD patients with a wide range of CAG repeats (43 to 180), and unaffected healthy controls (21 to 33) and reprogrammed then to pluripotency using the latest non-integrating iPS cell technology. So far 18 well-characterized patient-specific iPSC lines have been generated. These new iPSC lines have been rigorously characterized by our iPSC core and available to HD research community throughout California and the world. The Svendsen lab and the other HD iPSC Consortium laboratories have already used these lines and differentiated into relevant neuronal cell types to study the disease mechanisms as well develop new treatment.
  • These cell lines will be an essential resource for academic groups and pharmaceutical companies for studying pathogenesis and for testing experimental therapeutics for HD. The ultimate goal is to develop and validate methods and assays using >96 well format for CAG repeat length-dependent phenotypes that are amenable to high content/throughput screening methods. Assays developed using these patient-specific iPSC lines and their neuronal derivatives will allow academic groups and pharmaceutical companies to study pathogenesis and test experimental therapeutics for HD, which will significantly advance both our understanding of HD and potential treatments for this devastating and currently untreatable disease.

MSC engineered to produce BDNF for the treatment of Huntington's disease

Funding Type: 
Disease Team Therapy Development - Research
Grant Number: 
DR2A-05415
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$18 950 061
Disease Focus: 
Huntington's Disease
Neurological Disorders
Stem Cell Use: 
Adult Stem Cell
Cell Line Generation: 
Adult Stem Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 
One in every ten thousand people in the USA has Huntington's disease, and it impacts many more. Multiple generations within a family can inherit the disease, resulting in escalating health care costs and draining family resources. This highly devastating and fatal disease touches all races and socioeconomic levels, and there are currently no cures. Screening for the mutant HD gene is available, but the at-risk children of an affected parent often do not wish to be tested since there are currently no early prevention strategies or effective treatments. We propose a novel therapy to treat HD; implantation of cells engineered to secrete Brain-Derived Neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a factor needed by neurons to remain alive and healthy, but which plummets to very low levels in HD patients due to interference by the mutant Huntingtin (htt) protein that is the hallmark of the disease. Intrastriatal implantation of mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) has significant neurorestorative effects and is safe in animal models. We have discovered that MSC are remarkably effective delivery vehicles, moving robustly through the tissue and infusing therapeutic molecules into each damaged cell that they contact. Thus we are utilizing nature's own paramedic system, but we are arming them with enhanced neurotrophic factor secretion to enhance the health of at-risk neurons. Our novel animal models will allow the therapy to be carefully tested in preparation for a phase I clinical trial of MSC/BDNF infusion into the brain tissue of HD patients, with the goal of restoring the health of neurons that have been damaged by the mutant htt protein. Delivery of BDNF by MSC into the brains of HD mice is safe and has resulted in a significant reduction in their behavioral deficits, nearly back to normal levels. We are doing further work to ensure that the proposed therapy will be safe and effective, in preparation for the phase I clinical trial. The significance of our studies is very high because there are currently no treatments to diminish the unrelenting decline in the numbers of medium spiny neurons in the striata of patients affected by HD. Our biological delivery system for BDNF could also be modified for other neurodegenerative disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA1), Alzheimer's Disease, and some forms of Parkinson's Disease, where neuroregeneration is needed. Development of novel stem cell therapies is extremely important for the community of HD and neurodegenerative disease researchers, patients, and families. Since HD patients unfortunately have few other options, the potential benefit to risk ratio for the planned trial is very high.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
It is estimated that one in 10,000 CA residents have Huntington’s disease (HD). While the financial burden of HD is estimated to be in the billions, the emotional cost to friends, families, and those with or at risk for HD is immeasurable. Health care costs are extremely high for HD patients due to the long progression of the disease, often for two decades. The lost ability of HD patients to remain in the CA workforce, to support their families, and to pay taxes causes additional financial strain on the state’s economy. HD is inherited as an autosomal dominant trait, which means that 50% of the children of an HD patient will inherit the disease and will in turn pass it on to 50% of their children. Individuals diagnosed through genetic testing are at risk of losing insurance coverage in spite of reforms, and can be discriminated against for jobs, school, loans, or other applications. Since there are currently no cures or successful clinical trials to treat HD, many who are at risk are very reluctant to be tested. We are designing trials to treat HD through rescuing neurons in the earlier phases of the disease, before lives are devastated. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) have been shown to have significant effects on restoring synaptic connections between damaged neurons, promoting neurite outgrowth, secreting anti-apoptotic factors in the brain, and regulating inflammation. In addition to many trials that have assessed the safety and efficacy of human MSC delivery to tissues via systemic IV infusion, MSC are also under consideration for treatment of disorders in the CNS, although few MSC clinical trials have started so far with direct delivery to brain or spinal cord tissue. Therefore we are conducting detailed studies in support of clinical trials that will feature MSC implantation into the brain, to deliver the neurotrophic factor BDNF that is lacking in HD. MSC can be transferred from one donor to the next without tissue matching because they shelter themselves from the immune system. We have demonstrated the safe and effective production of engineered molecules from human MSC for at least 18 months, in pre-clinical animal studies, and have shown with our collaborators that delivery of BDNF can have significant effects on reducing disease progression in HD rodent models. We are developing a therapeutic strategy to treat HD, since the need is so acute. HD patient advocates are admirably among the most vocal in California about their desire for CIRM-funded cures, attending almost every public meeting of the governing board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). We are working carefully and intensely toward the planned FDA-approved approved cellular therapy for HD patients, which could have a major impact on those affected in California. In addition, the methods, preclinical testing models, and clinical trial design that we are developing could have far-reaching impact on the treatment of other neurodegenerative disorders.
Progress Report: 
  • Huntington’s disease (HD) is a hereditary, fatal neuropsychiatric disease. HD occurs in one in every ten thousand people in the USA. The effects of the disease on patients, families, and care givers are devastating as it reaches from generation to generation. This fatal disease touches all races and socioeconomic levels, and current treatment is strictly palliative. Existing drugs can reduce the involuntary movements and psychiatric symptoms, but do nothing to slow the inexorable progression. There is currently no cure for HD. People at risk of inheriting HD can undergo a genetic counseling and testing to learn if they are destined to develop this dreadful disease. Many people from HD families fear the consequences of stigma and genetic discrimination. Those at-risk often do not choose to be tested since there are currently no early prevention strategies or effective treatments.
  • We propose a novel therapy to treat HD: implantation of cells engineered to secrete Brain-Derived
  • Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a factor that can promote addition of new neurons to the affected area of the brain. BDNF is reduced in HD patients due to interference by the mutant Huntingtin (htt) protein that is the hallmark of the disease. We have discovered that mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSC), a type of adult stem cell, are remarkably effective delivery vehicles, moving robustly through the tissue and infusing therapeutic molecules into damaged cells they contact. In animal models of HD implantation of MSC into the brain has significant neurorestorative effects and is safe. We propose to use these MSCs as “nature's own paramedic system”, arming them with BDNF to enhance the health of at-risk neurons. Our HD animal models will allow the therapy to be carefully tested in preparation for a proposed Phase I clinical trial of MSC/BDNF implantation into the brain of HD patients (HD-CELL), with the goal of slowing disease progression.
  • Delivery of BDNF by MSC into the brains of HD mice is safe and has resulted in a significant reduction in their behavioral deficits, nearly back to normal levels. We are doing further efficacy and safety studies in preparation for the Phase I clinical trial. The significance of our studies is very high because there are currently no other options, there is no current treatment to delay the onset or slow the progression of the disease.. There are potential applications beyond Huntington’s disease. Our biological delivery system for BDNF sets the precedent for adult stem cell therapy in the brain and could potentially be modified for other neurodegenerative disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA), Alzheimer's disease, and some forms of Parkinson's disease. Since HD patients unfortunately have few other options, the potential benefit to risk ratio for the planned trial is very high.
  • In the first year of our grant we have successfully engineered human MSCs to produce BDNF, and are studying effects on disease progression in HD mice. We have developed methods to produce these cells in large quantities to be used for future human clinical studies. As we go forward in year 2 we plan to complete the animal studies that will allow us to apply for regulatory approval to go forward with the planned Phase I trial.
  • We have designed an observational study, PRE-CELL, to track disease progression and generate useful data in preparation for this future planned Phase I clinical trial. PRE-CELL has been approved by the institution’s ethics board and is currently enrolling subjects. PRE-CELL was designed to operate concurrently with the ongoing pre-clinical safety testing. For additional information go to: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01937923

Developing a regeneration-based functional restoration treatment for spinal cord injury

Funding Type: 
Research Leadership 7
Grant Number: 
LA1_C7-05735
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$5 609 890
Disease Focus: 
Spinal Cord Injury
Neurological Disorders
oldStatus: 
Closed
Public Abstract: 
One of the most exciting and challenging frontiers in neuroscience and medicine is to repair traumatic injuries to the central nervous system (CNS). Most spinal cord and head injuries result in devastating paralyses, yet very limited clinical intervention is currently available to restore the lost abilities. Traumatic injuries of the spine cause fractures and compression of the vertebrae, which in turn crush and destroy the axons, long processes of nerve cells that carry signals up and down the spinal cord between the brain and the rest of the body. It follows that the best chance for promoting functional recovery is identifying strategies that enable lesioned axons to regenerate and reconnect the severed neural circuits. Even minor improvements in voluntary motor functions after spinal cord injury could be immensely helpful for increasing the quality of life, employability, and independence, especially for patients with injuries at the upper spinal level. Thus, our overall research program centers on axon regeneration in general, with a focus on regenerating descending axons from the brain that control voluntary motor and other functions. We recently made breakthrough discoveries in identifying key biological mechanisms stimulating the re-growth of injured axons in the adult nervous system, which led to unprecedented extents of axon regeneration in various CNS injury models. While our success was compelling, we found that many regenerated axons were stalled at the lesion sites by the injury-induced glial scars. Furthermore, it is unclear whether the regenerated axons can form functional synaptic connections when they grow into the denervated spinal cord. This proposed research program is aimed at solving these obstacles by using human stem cell technologies. In the first aim, we will use human neural stem cells to engineer “permissive cell bridges” that can guide the maximum number of regenerating axons to grow across injury sites. In the second aim, we will test the therapeutic potential of human stem cell-derived neurons in forming “functional relays” that could propagate the brain-derived signals carried by regenerating axons to the injured spinal cord. Together, our research program is expected to develop a set of therapeutic strategies that have immediate clinical implications for human SCI patients.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Approximately 1.9% of the U.S. population, roughly 5,596,000 people, report some forms of paralysis; among whom, about 1,275,000 individuals are paralyzed due to spinal cord injuries (SCI). The disabilities and medical complications associated with SCI not only severely reduce the quality of life for the injured individuals, but also result in an estimated economical burden of $400,000,000 annually for the state of California in lost productivity and medical expenses. Traumatic injuries of the spine cause fractures and compression of the vertebrae, which in turn crush and destroy the axons, long processes of nerve cells that carry signals up and down the spinal cord between the brain and the rest of the body. Thus, identifying strategies that enable lesioned axons to regenerate and reconnect the severed neural circuits is crucial for promoting functional recovery after SCI. In recent years, we made breakthrough discoveries in identifying key biological mechanisms stimulating the re-growth of injured axons in the adult nervous system. This proposed research program is aimed at developing human neural stem cell based therapeutic strategies that enable regenerated axons to grow through tissue cavities at the injury site, and establish functionally relays between the regenerating cortical axons and the spinal circuits below the injury site, thereby restore the lost sensory/motor functions in SCI patients. Success of these proposed studies could lead to immediate therapeutic applications for SCI patients. The first stem cell-based clinical trial for human SCI is started in California in which stem cells are used to provide support and stimulate remyelination. Our stem cell based therapeutic strategies are aimed at re-building neural connections, which will compliment the existing strategy nicely. As a result, Californians will be the first beneficiaries of these therapies.

Stem cell based small molecule therapy for Alzheimer's disease

Funding Type: 
Early Translational III
Grant Number: 
TR3-05669
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$1 673 757
Disease Focus: 
Alzheimer's Disease
Neurological Disorders
Stem Cell Use: 
Embryonic Stem Cell
Cell Line Generation: 
Embryonic Stem Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 
Over 6 million people in the US suffer from AD. There are no drugs that prevent the death of nerve cells in AD, nor has any drug been identified that can stimulate their replacement. Even if nerve cells could be replaced, the toxic environment of the brain will kill them unless they are protected by a drug. Therefore, drugs that stimulate the generation of new neurons (neurogenesis) alone will not be effective; a drug with both neurogenic and neuroprotective properties is required. With the ability to use cells derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) as a screen for neurogenic compounds, it should now be possible to identify and tailor drugs for therapeutic use in AD. Our laboratory has developed a drug discovery scheme based upon using hESCs to screen drug candidates. We have recently identified a very potent drug that is exceptionally effective in rodent models of AD. However, this molecule needs to be optimized for human use. In this proposal, we will harness the power of hESCs to develop derivatives of J147 specifically tailored to stimulate neurogenesis and be neuroprotective in human cells. This work will optimize the chances for its true therapeutic potential in AD, and presents a unique opportunity to expand the use of hESCs for the development of a therapeutic for a disease for which there is no cure. This work could lead to a paradigm shift in the treatment of neurodegenerative disease.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Over 6 million people in the US suffer from Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Unless a viable therapeutic is identified it is estimated that this number will increase to 16 million by 2050, with a cost of well over $1 trillion per year, overwhelming California and national health care systems. Among the top 10 causes of death, AD (6th) is the only one with no treatment available to prevent, cure or slow down the condition. An enormous additional burden to families is the emotional and physical stress of having to deal with a family member with a disease which is going to become much more frequent with our aging population. In this application we use new human stem cell technologies to develop an AD drug candidate based upon a strong lead compound that we have already made that stimulates the multiplication of nerve precursor cells derived from human embryonic stem cells. This approach presents a unique opportunity to expand the use of human embryonic stem cells for the development of a therapeutic for a disease for which there is no cure, and could lead to a paradigm shift in the treatment of neurodegenerative disease. Since our AD drug discovery approach is fundamentally different from the unsuccessful approaches used by the pharmaceutical industry, it could also stimulate new biotech. The work in this proposal addresses one of the most important medical problems of California as well as the rest of the world, and if successful would benefit all.
Progress Report: 
  • Introduction: Over 6 million people in the US suffer from AD. There are no drugs that prevent the death of nerve cells in AD, nor has any drug been identified that can stimulate their replacement. Even if nerve cells could be replaced, the toxic environment of the brain will kill them unless they are protected by a drug. Therefore, drugs that stimulate the generation of new neurons (neurogenesis) alone will not be effective; a drug with both neurogenic and neuroprotective properties is required. With the ability to use cells derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) as a screen for neurogenic compounds, it should now be possible to identify and tailor drugs for therapeutic use in AD. This is the overall goal of this application.
  • Year One Progress: Using a novel drug discovery paradigm, we have made a very potent drug called J147 that is exceptionally effective in rodent models of AD and also stimulates neurogenesis in both young and very old mice. Very few, if any, drugs or drug candidates are both neuroprotective and neurogenic, particularly in old animals. In the first year of this application we harnessed the power of hESCs and medicinal chemistry to develop derivatives of J147 specifically tailored to stimulate neurogenesis and be neuroprotective in human cells. Using iterative chemistry, we synthesized over 200 new compounds, tested them for neurogenic properties in ES-derived neural precursor cells, assayed their ability to protect from the amyloid toxicity associated with AD, and determined their metabolic stability. All of the year one milestones we met and we now have the required minimum of six compounds to move into year two studies. In addition, we have made a good start on the work for year two in that some pharmacokinetics and safety studies has been completed.
  • This work will optimize the chances for its true therapeutic potential in AD, and presents a unique opportunity to expand the use of hESCs for the development of a therapeutic for a disease for which there is no cure. This work could lead to a paradigm shift in the treatment of neurodegenerative disease.
  • Introduction: Over 6 million people in the US suffer from Alzheimer’s disease (AD). There are no drugs that prevent the death of nerve cells in AD, nor has any drug been identified that can stimulate their replacement. Even if nerve cells could be replaced, the toxic environment of the brain will kill them unless they are protected by a drug. Therefore, drugs that stimulate the generation of new neurons (neurogenesis) alone will not be effective; a drug with both neurogenic and neuroprotective properties is required. With the ability to use cells derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) as a screen to identify neurogenic compounds, we have shown that it is now be possible to identify and tailor drugs for therapeutic use in AD. This was the overall goal of this application, and to date we have made outstanding progress, making a drug that is both neurogenic for human cells and has therapeutic efficacy in a rigorous mouse model of AD.
  • Year 2 Progress: Using a novel drug discovery paradigm based upon human stem cell derived nerve precursor cells, we have made a very potent drug called CAD-31. CAD-31 potently stimulates neurogenesis in human cells in culture and in mice, and prevents nerve cell death in cell culture models of toxicities associated with old age and AD. Very few, if any, drugs or drug candidates are both neuroprotective and neurogenic, particularly in animals. In the first year of this project, we harnessed the power of hESCs and medicinal chemistry to develop CAD-31. All of the Year 1 milestones were met. In Year 2 we completed all of the required pharmacokinetics and safety studies on the six best compounds synthesized in Year 1. Of those six, one compound, CAD-31, was the best in terms of medicinal chemical, pharmacokinetic, neuroprotective and neurogenic properties. This compound underwent extensive testing for safety and passed with flying colors. It was then put into an AD mouse model where it stimulated neurogenesis, prevented behavioral deficits and some of the disease pathology. All Year 2 milestones were completed. In Year 3 of the project we will determine if CAD-31 is able to reverse AD symptoms in old AD mice that already have the disease. This is the most clinically relevant model of AD since therapies can only be initiated once the disease is identified.
  • This work has produced a novel AD drug candidate that is developed based upon a set of assays never before used by pharmaceutical companies. It presents a unique opportunity to expand the use of hESCs for the development of a therapeutic for a disease for which there is no cure. This work could lead to a paradigm shift in drug discovery for the treatment of neurodegenerative disease.

Targeting Stem Cells to Enhance Remyelination in the Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis

Funding Type: 
Early Translational III
Grant Number: 
TR3-05617
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$4 327 175
Disease Focus: 
Multiple Sclerosis
Neurological Disorders
Stem Cell Use: 
Adult Stem Cell
Cell Line Generation: 
Adult Stem Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease in which the myelin sheath that insulates neurons is destroyed, resulting in loss of proper neuronal function. Existing treatments for MS are based on strategies that suppress the immune response. While these drugs do provide benefit by reducing relapses and delaying progression (but have significant side effects), the disease invariably progresses. We are pursuing an alternative therapy aimed at regeneration of the myelin sheath through drugs that act on an endogenous stem cell population in the central nervous system termed oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs). Remission in MS is largely dependent upon OPCs migrating to sites of injury and subsequently differentiating into oligodendrocytes – the cells that synthesize myelin and are capable of neuronal repair. Previous studies indicate that in progressive MS, OPCs are abundantly present at sites of damage but fail to differentiate to oligodendrocytes. As such, drug-like molecules capable of inducing OPC differentiation should have significant potential, used alone or in combination with existing immunomodulatory agents, for the treatment of MS. The objective of this project is to identify a development candidate (DC) for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) that functions by directly stimulating the differentiation of the adult stem cells required for remyelination.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a painful, neurodegenerative disease that leads to an impairment of physical and cognitive abilities. Patients with MS are often forced to stop working because their condition becomes so limiting. MS can interfere with a patient's ability to even perform simple routine daily activities, resulting in a decreased quality of life. Existing treatments for MS delay disease progression and minimize symptoms, however, the disease invariably progresses to a state of chronic demyelination. The goal of this project is to identify novel promyelinating drugs, based on differentiation of an endogenous stem cell population. Such drugs would be used in combination with existing immunosuppressive drugs to prevent disease progression and restore proper neuronal activity. More effective MS treatment strategies represent a major unmet medical need that could impact the roughly 50,000 Californians suffering from this disease. Clearly the development of a promyelinating therapeutic would have a significant impact on the well-being of Californians and reduce the negative economic impact on the state resulting from this degenerative disease.
Progress Report: 
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease characterized by the destruction of the myelin sheath that insulates neurons, resulting in loss of proper neuronal function. Existing treatments for MS are based exclusively on strategies that suppress the immune response. We are pursuing an alternative stem cell-based therapeutic approach aimed at enhancing regeneration of the myelin sheath. Specifically, we are focused on the identification of drug-like molecules capable of inducing oligodendrocyte precursor cell (OPC) differentiation. To date, we have identified a series approved drugs that effectively induce OPC differentiation under tissue culture conditions. Additionally, we have demonstrated that several of these drug candidates reduce MS-like symptoms in relevant rodent models of the disease. We are currently conducting detailed pharmacology experiments to determine which of the identified molecules will serve as the best candidate for future clinical development.

Immune-Matched Neural Stem Cell Transplantation for Pediatric Neurodegenerative Disease

Funding Type: 
Early Translational III
Grant Number: 
TR3-05476
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$5 509 978
Disease Focus: 
Neurological Disorders
Pediatrics
Stem Cell Use: 
Adult Stem Cell
Cell Line Generation: 
Adult Stem Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 
Children with inherited degenerative diseases of the brain will be among the first to benefit from novel approaches based on stem cell therapy (SCT). This assertion is based on a number of medical and experimental observations and precedents including: 1) These diseases currently lack effective therapies and can cause profound mental retardation or lead to death; 2) SCT has already been shown to work in the milder forms of similar diseases that do not affect the brain; 3) Experimental work and early clinical studies have clearly shown that stem cells delivered directly into the brain can be used to treat diseases affecting the brain; and 4) The clinical safety of stem cells delivered directly into the brain has already been established during recent Phase 1 clinical trials. Our approach is designed to lead to a therapeutic development candidate, based on stem cells, by addressing two critical issues: (i) that early intervention is not only required but is indeed possible in this patient population and that, (ii) induction of immune tolerance is also required. We not only address these two important issues but also set the stage for efficient translation of our approach into clinical practice, by adapting transplant techniques that are standard in clinical practice or in clinical trials and using laboratory cell biology methods that are easily transferrable to the scale and processes of clinical cell manufacturing.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
We are focusing on a class of childhood brain diseases that causes a child's brain to degenerate and results in severe mental retardation or death, in addition to damage to many other organ systems. These diseases are not yet represented in CIRM’s portfolio. Recently blood stem cell transplantation has been applied to these diseases, showing that some of the organ systems can be rescued by stem cell therapy. Unfortunately, the brain component of the disease is not impacted by blood stem cell therapy. Our team proposes to take these important lessons to develop a therapy that treats all organ dysfunction, including brain. Because of the established stem cell success in the clinical treatment of non-brain organs and the experimental treatment of the brain, we propose a novel, combined stem cell therapy. Based on our own work and recent clinical experience, this dual stem cell therapy has a high probability of success for slowing or reversing disease, and importantly, will not require children to be treated with toxic immunosuppressive drugs. This therapy will thus benefit California by: 1) reducing disease burden in individuals and the State's burden for caring for these children; 2) providing a successful model of stem cell therapy of the brain that will both bolster public confidence in CIRM's mission to move complex stem cell therapies into the clinic; and 3) laying the groundwork for using this type of therapy with other brain diseases of children.
Progress Report: 
  • The purpose of the ET3RA is to establish an experimental model of stem cell transplantation that accomplishes two equally important goals: 1) to devise a strategy of protection of the child's brain from the ravages of certain genetic diseases and 2) to devise a simultaneous strategy of transplantation that avoids immune system rejection. In our first year of work, we have shown that we can reliably produce the stem cells that we want to transplant into the brains of experimental animals (mice). We have also bred sufficient numbers of mice for the transplant experiments and have started the immune system-based strategy of transplantation. This puts us in the proper position to begin the brain stem cell transplantation in year 2. Thus, we are on course to accomplishing our goals for this ET3RA and for eventual development of this strategy for the initiation of clinical trials.

Identifying Drugs for Alzheimer's Disease with Human Neurons Made From Human IPS cells

Funding Type: 
Early Translational III
Grant Number: 
TR3-05577
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$1 857 600
Disease Focus: 
Alzheimer's Disease
Neurological Disorders
Stem Cell Use: 
iPS Cell
Cell Line Generation: 
iPS Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 
We propose to discover new drug candidates for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), which is common, fatal, and for which no effective disease-modifying drugs are available. Because no effective AD treatment is available or imminent, we propose to discover novel candidates by screening purified human brain cells made from human reprogrammed stem cells (human IPS cells or hIPSC) from patients that have rare and aggressive hereditary forms of AD. We have already discovered that such human brain cells exhibit an unique biochemical behavior that indicates early development of AD in a dish. Thus, we hope to find new drugs by using the new tools of human stem cells that were previously unavailable. We think that human brain cells in a dish will succeed where animal models and other types of cells have thus far failed.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that afflicts millions of Californians. The emotional and financial impact on families and on the state healthcare budget is enormous. This project seeks to find new drugs to treat this terrible disease. If we are successful our work in the long-term may help diminish the social and familial cost of AD, and lead to establishment of new businesses in California using our approaches to drug discovery for AD.
Progress Report: 
  • We have made steady and significant progress in developing a way to use human reprogrammed stem cells to develop drugs for Alzheimer's disease. In the more recent project term we have further refined our key assay, and generated sufficient cells to enable screening of 50,000 different chemical candidates that might reveal potential drugs for this terrible disease. With a little bit of additional refinement, we will be able to begin our search in earnest in collaboration with the Sanford-Burnham Prebys Screening Center.

A CIRM Disease Team to Develop Allopregnanolone for Prevention and Treatment of Alzheimer's Disease

Funding Type: 
Disease Team Therapy Planning I
Grant Number: 
DR2-05410
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$107 989
Disease Focus: 
Alzheimer's Disease
Neurological Disorders
oldStatus: 
Closed
Public Abstract: 
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is now a nation-wide epidemic and California is at the epicenter of the epidemic. One-tenth of all people in the United States diagnosed with AD live in California. In the US, 5.4 million people have AD and another American develops AD every 69 seconds. No therapeutic strategies exist to prevent or treat AD. And the situation is worse than expected. Results of a recent two year clinical study show that the currently available medications for managing AD symptoms are ineffective in patients with mild cognitive impairment or mild AD. We seek to develop a small molecule therapeutic, allopregnanolone (APα) to prevent and treat AD. APα promotes the ability of brain to regenerate itself by increasing the number and survival of newly generated neurons. The APα-induced increase in newly generated neurons was associated with a reversal of cognitive deficits and restored learning and memory function to normal in a preclinical mouse model of AD. Further, APα reduced the amount of AD pathology in the brain. Importantly, when given peripherally either by injection under the skin or applied topically to the skin, APα was able to enter the brain to increase the generation of new neurons. The unique mechanism of APα action reduces the risk that APα would cause proliferation of other cells in the body. Because APα was efficacious in both pre-pathology and post-pathology stages of AD progression, APα has the potential to be effective for both the prevention of and early stage treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Further, APα induced neurogenesis and restoration of cognitive function in normal aged mice suggesting that APα could be efficacious to sustain cognitive function and prevent development of AD in a normal aged population. In other clinical studies, APα has been proven safe in animals and humans and in both men and women. Together, these findings provide a strong foundation on which to plan a clinical trial of APα in persons with prodromal and diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease. To plan for a Phase I-IIa clinical trial to determine safety, dosing and clinical efficacy, we have assembled an interdisciplinary team of clinicians, scientists, therapeutic development, regulatory, data management and statistical analysis experts. The objectives of this proposal are to: a) develop allopregnanolone as a therapeutic for Alzheimer’s disease; to plan an early clinical development program for its use as a neurogenesis agent; b) file a complete and well-supported IND with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); c) complete phase I/IIa clinical studies to evaluate safety, biological activity, and early efficacy in humans; and (d) complete a phase II clinical trial that will evaluate efficacy and lead to larger multisite clinical studies of efficacy.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
California is at the epicenter of the epidemic of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Nationwide there are 5.4 million persons living with AD. Ten percent or over half a million Californians have AD. Among California’s baby boomers aged 55 and over, one in eight will develop AD. It is estimated that one in six Californians will develop a form of dementia. By 2030 the number of Californians living with AD will double to over 1.1 million. While all races and ethnic groups and regions of the state will be affected, not all regions within California will be equally affected. Los Angeles County has the greatest population in the state and thus will be the true epicenter of the Alzheimer’s epidemic in California. Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects an entire family, community and health care system. Nation-wide there are nearly 15 million Alzheimer and dementia care givers providing 17 billion hours of unpaid care per year. Total costs for caring for people with AD, totals $183 billion per year. California shouldered $18.3 billion of those costs and most of those costs were born by persons and health care services in Los Angeles County. Because of the psychological and physical toll of caring for people with Alzheimer’s, caregivers had $7.9 billion in additional health care costs. Proportionally that translates into $790 million of health care costs for Californians. In total, California spent over $19 billion per year for costs associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Multiple analyses indicate that a delay of just 5 years can reduce the number of persons diagnosed with Alzheimer’s by 50% and dramatically reduce the associated costs. We seek to develop a small molecule therapeutic, allopregnanolone (APα) to prevent and treat AD. APα promotes the innate regenerative capacity of the brain to increase the pool of neural progenitor cells. The APα-induced increase in neurogenesis was associated with a reversal of cognitive deficits and restored learning and memory function to normal in a preclinical mouse model of AD. Further, APα reduced the development of AD pathology. APα crosses the blood brain barrier and acts through a mechanism unique to neural progenitor cells and thus is unlikely to exert proliferative effects in other organs. Because APα was efficacious in both pre-pathology and post-pathology stages of AD progression, APα has the potential to be effective for both the prevention of and early stage treatment .
Progress Report: 
  • As a result of the planning grant award, the Allopregnanolone (APα) team accomplished the following that enabled submission of the CIRM Disease Team Therapy Development Research Awards Proposal:
  • 1) Created a team of experts in regeneration, neurology and Alzheimer's disease drug development to generate strategy and overall development plan. Through the team’s efforts we developed preclinical and clinical studies, determined correct dosing parameters for clinical studies, identified an optimal route of administration, developed chemistry, manufacturing and controls, and submitted our Pre-IND documents to the FDA.
  • 2) Filed a Pre-IND document with the FDA and held a Pre-IND meeting with the FDA and obtained feedback from the FDA on our program. FDA provided guidance on requirements for the preclinical plan along with input on the design of our two Phase 2 clinical studies. We also obtained agreement that we may cross-reference the existing IND of our academic partner, Michael Rogawski at UC Davis and utilize product manufactured at UC Davis.
  • 3) We developed an integrated CMC plan to manufacture allopregnanolone (clinical API) and established compliant processes to ensure material requirements are met for the preclinical and clinical studies. Manufacture of clinical API will be conducted at the UC Davis CIRM GMP facility.
  • 4) FDA required preclinical IND-enabling research strategy was developed. Teams at USC and a California-based CRO, were identified to conduct three studies: 1) Bridging Study: subcutaneous to IV dosing and administration to bridge from previous subcutaneous preclinical analyses to clinical studies using IV APα administration to determine a) optimal IV dose to promote neurogenesis and b) optimal infusion rate to achieve required peak of APα and area under the curve. 2) Cerebral Microhemorrhage: The FDA advised a safety test for the occurrence of cerebral microhemorrhages localized to the cerebral vasculature in areas of cerebral amyloid angiopathy with various anti-Aβ immunotherapies. 3) Chronic GLP Toxicity Analyses: Based on FDA guidance, safety studies will be required for chronic exposure of Alzheimer’s patients to APα. To initiate the chronic exposure Phase 2a Proof of Concept trial, chronic preclinical toxicology is required. We have designed 6-month and 9-month IV dose GLP toxicity studies in rat and dog, respectively. The studies include systemic toxicology and toxicokinetic evaluation.
  • 5) In support of developing ideal dosing parameters for the Phase 2 clinical studies, the California CRO, Simulations Plus was utilized. ADMET Predictor™ was used to estimate the biopharmaceutical properties of APα. Predictive modeling of optimal dosing regimen and expected human exposure in Alzheimer’s patients was performed.
  • 6) Designed two Phase 2 clinical trials, a Multiple Ascending Dose (MAD) and a Proof of Concept. A California-based CRO, Worldwide Clinical Trials and Alzheimer's clinical trials expert were identified to partner with USC to design and conduct our clinical trials. Phase 2 MAD study primary objectives are to evaluate safety, tolerability and pharmacokinetics. MAD exploratory objectives are to evaluate effect of allopregnanolone on MRI biomarker outcomes and cognition. Proposed MRI biomarkers include hippocampal volume, white matter integrity, and functional connectivity. Phase 2 Proof of Concept trial primary objectives are to evaluate safety and tolerability with long-term exposure. Therapeutic efficacy of allopregnanolone will be determined by outcomes on cognition and biomarkers of regeneration in brain.
  • 7) A Steering Committee and Advisory Board were established. Both advisory groups are composed of internationally recognized researchers, translational scientists, regulatory experts and therapeutic development experts. The charge of the Steering Committee is to provide oversight that CIRM allopregnanolone team progress is on track to meet milestones, ensure that processes and strategies are aligned. The Advisory Board is comprised of internationally recognized experts in Alzheimer’s disease and experts in stem cell biology. Advisory Board members will provide an objective evaluation of CIRM allopregnanolone project progress. The functions of Advisory Board are: 1) Advise CIRM allopregnanolone project leadership on identifying key milestones; 2) Review progress on meeting milestones and hitting development targets; 3) Provide strategic and tactical counsel to the Leadership team and Steering Committee.
  • 8) Generated viable commercial potential through partnership with SAGE Therapeutics. Ensured patent progression and prosecution through USC. Engaged key opinion leaders in the field and educated these experts regarding therapeutic potential of allopregnanolone as a first in class drug for neuroregeneration in Alzheimer's disease.

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