July 25, 2011
Pregnancy Hormone Has Unprecedented, Powerful Effect On Spinal Muscular Atrophy
'Biggest increase anyone has seen' in the production of essential compound for deadly childhood disease
Researchers in Ottawa report new hope for the treatment of infants born with serious genetic disorder.
PhD student Faraz Farooq working in the laboratory of University of Ottawa professor, Alex MacKenzie has discovered that the pregnancy hormone Prolactin, a Canadian discovery in itself, not only activates the copy gene but if given over time extends the lifespan of SMA mice by up to 60%. The research report is published today in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
"Prolactin causes a dramatic regulation of copy gene SMN2 which results in high production of SMN protein, resulting in the extension in the lifespan of mice with SMA," said Mr. Faraz Farooq. "Labs around the world have been trying to produce more protein from copy gene SMN2 but with Prolactin (an insulin like protein) we're seeing up-regulation that's more than tenfold. It's the biggest increase anyone has yet seen in the SMA Field with any potential therapeutic compound. This represents a significant advance in search for a therapy for this disease."
The laboratory testing of Prolactin on SMA not only shows an extended lifespan but also improved motor control. Prolactin has been used in clinical trials for unrelated studies, so it is expected that the path between pre-clinical validation and actual clinic trials of Prolactin with SMA patients will be reasonably short.
"News of prolactin's role and effectiveness in SMN regulation breathes fresh hope into all of the SMA community," said Martha Slay, president and co-founder of FightSMA. "FightSMA congratulates Dr. MacKenzie and his colleagues on this exciting breakthrough in SMA research."
"We believe we're moving in the direction of an effective pre-symptomatic treatment of kids with SMA," said Dr. Alex MacKenzie, principal investigator, CHEO Research Institute. "We want to somehow stop the progress of this disorder in its tracks, and let our tiniest patients build strength. Today's findings are not curative, but we think this is a breakthrough discovery. Hopefully by using different approaches to increase SMN protein we can develop a combination therapy for the treatment of SMA."
On the Net: