Wings for life awarded a grant of 200.000 euros to the neuroregeneration group led by Joost Verhaagen. The grant was awarded to the project: ‘Promoting long-distance regeneration of lumber spinal motor neurons by gene therapy using a novel immune-evasive gene switch’
In patients longitudinal spinal cord lesions due to traction to the brachial plexus often cause complete and permanent loss of motor and sensory function. Until fairly recent, such lesions were considered impossible to repair. The aim of this project is to develop a gene-based treatment strategy that has the potential to promote long-distance motor neuron regeneration following ventral spinal root avulsion lesions.
The Verhaagen group will employ a novel immune-evasive gene switch to direct temporally and spatially controlled combinatorial expression of the potent motor neuron survival and axon growth factor glia-cell line derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) and ChondroitinaseABC (CHABC), an enzyme which digests the inhibitory extracellular matrix in chronically denervated peripheral nerves.
This gene therapeutic strategy offers the unique advantage of temporal and spatial control over the expression of GDNF and CHABC in the Schwann cells present along the centimeters long nerve pathway. We expect that our approach will result in functional reinnervation of denervated hind paw muscles. Although the current project is fundamental in nature the group also aims to make an important contribution towards future clinical translation of gene therapy as a way to promote spinal cord regeneration.
Wings for life
Wings for Life is a not-for-profit spinal cord research foundation. Their mission is to find a cure for spinal cord injury. Wings for Life funds world-class scientific research and clinical trials around the globe aimed at healing the injured spinal cord.