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BGRF and SILS Scientists Analyze Viability of shRNA Therapy for Huntington’s Disease – Press Release by Biogerontology Research Foundation

BGRF and SILS Scientists Analyze Viability of shRNA Therapy for Huntington’s Disease – Press Release by Biogerontology Research Foundation

Biogerontology Research Foundation


Friday, December 1, 2017, London, UK: Researchers from the Biogerontology Research FoundationDepartment of Molecular Neuroscience at the Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences at the University of Amsterdam, and the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society at the Karolinska Institute announce the publication of a paper in Translational Neurodegeneration, a BioMedCentral journal, titled RNAi mechanisms in Huntington’s disease therapy: siRNA versus shRNA.

After many years of development, RNAi therapeutics are nearing the clinic. There are several variants on RNAi therapeutics, such as antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs), short-hairpin RNA (shRNA), small interfering RNA (siRNA), et cetera. The researchers’ paper aimed to answer the question of why RNAi therapeutics for nucleotide repeat disorders (specifically Huntington’s, a devastating genetic neurodegenerative disease), have lost favor in recent years. After a phenomenal amount of excitement, these therapies were hindered by problems like molecular stability, dosing, and transcriptional control of the gene therapeutic construct.

“We compared various RNAi-based therapeutic modalities available for the treatment of Huntington’s Disease and offered mechanistic proposals on how to break through current barriers to clinical development. One key problem has proven to be modulating the expression level of shRNA constructs, which would otherwise be the clear frontrunner among ASOs, siRNAs, and other methods due to duration of expression, dramatically reduced off-target effects, and ease of delivery by adeno-associated viruses that are already approved by the EMA and FDA. We also put forward novel methods of modulating construct expression and avoiding off-target effects” said Franco Cortese, co-author of the paper and Deputy Director of the Biogerontology Research Foundation.

The researchers analyzed available data on the levels of off-target effects associated with siRNA vs shRNA, surveyed emerging strategies to reduce off-target effects in shRNA therapies (such as tough decoy RNAs, or TuDs), and proposed novel methods of controlling shRNA expression, in particular through the use of negative feedback-driven oscillating promoters.

Mechanism of TFEB at the PGC1-a promoter. The PGC1a promoter contains a CLEAR-box that is known to be bound by TFEB, a transcription factor induced during autophagy and lysosomal biogenesis. A construct being the PGC1a promoter CLEAR-box would be induced by TFEB under conditions of intracellular proteotoxicity due to HTT aggregation. By this mechanism, on-demand suppression of HTT could be achieved | Credit: Translational Neuroscience

 

“We proposed two novel feedback mechanisms that 1) activate construct expression stoichiometrically with mutant Huntingtin expression, or 2) only during aggregate-induced autophagy and lysosomal biogenesis. That way, the problem of excessive construct expression may be mitigated. These ideas were inspired by feedback systems used in synthetic biology, and in ‘nonsynthetic,’ naturally occurring biological systems” said Sebastian Aguiar, lead author of the paper.

Readers can read the open-access paper here: https://translationalneurodegeneration.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40035-017-0101-9.

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About the Biogerontology Research Foundation

The Biogerontology Research Foundation is a UK non-profit research foundation and public policy center seeking to fill a gap within the research community, whereby the current scientific understanding of the ageing process is not yet being sufficiently exploited to produce effective medical interventions. The BGRF funds and conducts research which, building on the body of knowledge about how ageing happens, aims to develop biotechnological interventions to remediate the molecular and cellular deficits which accumulate with age and which underlie the ill-health of old age. Addressing ageing damage at this most fundamental level will provide an important opportunity to produce the effective, lasting treatments for the diseases and disabilities of ageing, required to improve quality of life in the elderly. The BGRF seeks to use the entire scope of modern biotechnology to attack the changes that take place in the course of ageing, and to address not just the symptoms of age-related diseases but also the mechanisms of those diseases.

About the Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences

The Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences (SILS) is the largest institute of the Faculty of Science at the University of Amsterdam. The institute comprises biological disciplines including molecular and cell biology, microbiology, plant science, physiology and neurobiology, supported by modern enabling technologies for the life sciences. The research groups of SILS also develop methods in genomics (micro-array, next-gen sequencing, proteomics), bioinformatics and advanced light microscopy technologies. Knowledge from adjacent fields of science, in particular biochemistry, biophysics, medicine, bioinformatics, statistics and information technology make SILS a multidisciplinary research institute with a systems biology approach to the life sciences. SILS’ research objective is to understand the functioning of living organisms, from the most basic aspects up to complex physiological function(s). Biological processes are studied at the level of molecules, cells, cellular networks and organisms. SILS research topics have in common that similar cellular processes and interactions are studied, likewise using similar methodologies and technologies. Therefore SILS scientists often study the same concepts in different biological systems. Within the institute, this leads to exchange of information and extension of research over the borders of different disciplines. Part of SILS research activities are directed to application-oriented research in close collaboration with industry.

Jim Mellon Announces Launch of New Book – Juvenescence: Investing in the Age of Longevity – Press Release by Biogerontology Research Foundation

Jim Mellon Announces Launch of New Book – Juvenescence: Investing in the Age of Longevity – Press Release by Biogerontology Research Foundation

Biogerontology Research Foundation


London, UK: Biogerontology Research Foundation Trustee Jim Mellon announces the publication of his newest book, Juvenescence: Investing in the Age of Longevity.

The book is a comprehensive summary of the emerging longevity industry, including profiles of longevity companies, investment opportunities, and aims to chart the major ideas of the geroscience’s thought-leaders and the vast implications this will have on economies and societies.

Often referred to as the British Warren Buffett, Billionaire Jim Mellon is well known for identifying major emerging trends before they become mainstream. Mellon made his wealth by investing in emerging markets throughout the 1990s. After many years of research and investing in the life science sector, Jim announced his vision for the emergence of the nascent longevity industry at Master Investor, one of the UK’s leading investor show in March of 2017, which was attended by over five thousand investors and entrepreneurs.

“The Biogerontology Research Foundation is proud to support what we feel will come to be seen as a landmark publication in the modern history of biogerontology. Jim has put an enormous amount of thought and effort into this new book, and has interviewed many of the field’s leading scientists in his research. The field of geroscience and the emerging longevity industry are both sure to prosper from very well-respected business personalities like Jim Mellon championing the longevity industry and projecting that it will become the world’s largest industry. Further, governments and policy makers should note the pressing need for a paradigm shift in medicine and healthcare away from ‘sick care’ toward comprehensive and disease-preventative healthspan extension. We are proud to have Jim as a Trustee of the Biogerontology Research Foundation and look forward to helping him lend mainstream credibility to the field and actionability to the dawning longevity industry” said Franco Cortese, Deputy Director & Trustee of the Biogerontology Research Foundation.

In 2012, Jim published his best-seller Cracking the Code, which summarized his vision for the future of the life science sector. In 2017, he announced his intention to focus much of his time and assets on the emerging longevity industry and make substantial investments into this area.

Jim and long-time co-author Al Chalabi toured many academic institutions, biopharmaceutical companies, and Silicon Valley tech companies to learn about the latest research and to understand the rapidly advancing field of longevity. Juvenescence highlights the technologies they deem the most likely to generate substantial longevity dividends and create sustainable and profitable industries. They travelled through the US and Europe, interviewing geroscience’s leading scientists and thought-leaders and provide an objective survey of their findings well as a detailed vision for the industry’s future and the most appropriate investment opportunities within the dawning longevity industry.

 

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Earlier this year Jim Mellon announced the formation of Juvenescence Limited, a company investing in the longevity biotechnology. Since then the company announced investments in several high-profile longevity companies including Insilico Medicine, Inc, a Baltimore-based leader in artificial intelligence for drug discovery, biomarker development, and aging research.

About the Biogerontology Research Foundation:

The Biogerontology Research Foundation is a UK non-profit research foundation and public policy center seeking to fill a gap within the research community, whereby the current scientific understanding of the ageing process is not yet being sufficiently exploited to produce effective medical interventions. The BGRF funds and conducts research which, building on the body of knowledge about how ageing happens, aims to develop biotechnological interventions to remediate the molecular and cellular deficits which accumulate with age and which underlie the ill-health of old age. Addressing ageing damage at this most fundamental level will provide an important opportunity to produce the effective, lasting treatments for the diseases and disabilities of ageing, required to improve quality of life in the elderly. The BGRF seeks to use the entire scope of modern biotechnology to attack the changes that take place in the course of ageing, and to address not just the symptoms of age-related diseases but also the mechanisms of those diseases.

Induced Cell Turnover: A Proposed Modality for In Situ Tissue Regeneration and Repair – Press Release by Biogerontology Research Foundation

Induced Cell Turnover: A Proposed Modality for In Situ Tissue Regeneration and Repair – Press Release by Biogerontology Research Foundation

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Biogerontology Research Foundation


Scientists at the Biogerontology Research FoundationFeinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University and Swammerdam Institute of Life Sciences at the University of Amsterdam have published a paper on a proposed method of in situ tissue regeneration called Induced Cell Turnover (ICT) in the journal Human Gene Therapy. The proposed therapeutic modality would aim to coordinate the targeted ablation of endogenous cells with the administration of minimally-differentiated, hPSC-derived cells in a gradual and multi-phasic manner so as to extrinsically mediate the turnover and replacement of whole tissues and organs with stem-cell derived cells.

“One of the major hurdles limiting traditional cell therapies is low levels of engraftment and retention, which is caused in part by cells only being able to engraft at locations of existing cell loss, and by the fact that many of those vacancies have already become occupied by ECM and fibroblasts (i.e. scar tissue) by the time the cells are administered, long after the actual occurrence of cell loss. The crux underlying ICT is to coordinate endogenous cell ablation (i.e. induced apoptosis) with replacement cell administration so as to manually vacate niches for new cells to engraft, coordinating these two events in space and time so as to minimize the ability for sites of cell loss to become occupied by ECM and fibroblasts. This would be done in a gradual and multi-phasic manner so as to avoid acute tissue failure resulting from the transient absence of too many cells at any one time. While the notion of endogenous cell clearance prior to replacement cell administration has become routine for bone marrow transplants, it isn’t really on the horizon of researchers and clinicians working with solid tissues, and this is something we’d like to change,” said Franco Cortese, Deputy Director and Trustee of the Biogerontology Research Foundation, and lead author on the paper.

Cell-type and tissue-specific rates of induced turnover could be achieved using cell-type specific pro-apoptotic small molecule cocktails, peptide mimetics, and/or tissue-tropic AAV-delivered suicide genes driven by cell-type specific promoters. Because these sites of ablation would still be “fresh” when replacement cells are administered, the presumption is that the patterns of ablation will make administered cells more likely to engraft where they should, in freshly vacated niches where the signals promoting cell migration and engraftment are still active. By varying the dose of cell-type targeted ablative agents, cell type and tissue-specific rates of induced turnover could be achieved, allowing for the rate and spatial distribution of turnover to be tuned to the size of the tissue in order to avoid ablating too many cells at once and inadvertently inducing acute tissue failure.

“Cell therapies are limited by low levels of engraftment, and in principle their ability to improve clinical outcomes is limited by the fact that they can only engraft at locations of existing cell loss. Conversely, therapeutic tissue and organ engineering requires surgery, is more likely to introduce biochemical and mechanical abnormalities to tissue ultrastructure through the decellularization process, and is fundamentally incapable of replacing distributed tissues and structures with a high degree of interconnectivity to other tissues in the body. The aim of ICT is to form a bridge between these two main pillars of regenerative medicine, extending the efficacy of cell therapies beyond a patch for existing cell loss and accomplishing the aim of tissue and organ engineering (i.e. the replacement and regeneration of whole tissues and organs) while potentially remaining free of some of their present limitations,” said Giovanni Santostasi, co-author on the paper and a researcher at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University.

While future iterations of the therapy could use patient-derived cells, such as ESCs derived via somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) or iPSCs derived from nuclear reprogramming, shorter-term applications would likely use existing stem cell lines immunologically matched to the patient via HLA matching. The authors contend that the cloning of adult organisms with normal lifespans from adult somatic cells testifies to the fact that adult cells can be rejuvenated and used to produce a sufficient quantity of daughter cells to replace the sum of cells constituting adult organisms, and that serial cloning experiments (in which this process is done iteratively, using an adult cell of each subsequent generation to derive the next) attests to this fact even more strongly.

“ICT could theoretically enable the controlled turnover and rejuvenation of aged tissues. The technique is particularly applicable to tissues that are not amenable to growth ex vivo and implantation (as with solid organs) – such as the vascular, lymphatic, and nervous systems. The method relies upon targeted ablation of old, damaged and/or senescent cells, coupled with a titrated replacement with patient-derived semi-differentiated stem and progenitor cells. By gradually replacing the old cells with new cells, entire tissues can be replaced in situ. The body naturally turns over tissues, but not all tissues and perhaps not optimally. I am reminded of the quote attributed to Heraclitus: ‘No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man,'” said Sebastian Aguiar, a coauthor on the paper and researcher at the Swammerdam Institute of Life Sciences, University of Amsterdam.

“Reversing aging in humans will require a multi-step approach at multiple levels of the organismal organization. In situ targeted ablation of the senescent cells and regeneration will be an important component of comprehensive anti-aging therapies,” said Alex Zhavoronkov, Chief Science Officer of the Biogerontology Research Foundation.

The researchers originally proposed ICT in 2016 in the context of biomedical gerontology as a possible means of preventing and/or negating age-related phenotypic deviation for the purposes of healthspan extension, and in this new paper they refine the methodological underpinnings of the approach, take a closer look at potential complications and strategies for their deterrence, and analyze ICT in the context of regenerative medicine as an intervention for a broader range of conditions based on disease or dysfunction at the cellular and intercellular level, with potential utilities absent from traditional cell therapies and tissue/organ engineering, the two main pillars of regenerative medicine. The intervention is still very much conceptual, and any potential utilities over other therapeutic modalities within regenerative medicine would need to be verified via preclinical studies, but their hope is to stimulate further research at this interface between geroscience and regenerative medicine.

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The paper is available here.

About the Biogerontology Research Foundation:

The Biogerontology Research Foundation is a UK non-profit research foundation and public policy center seeking to fill a gap within the research community, whereby the current scientific understanding of the ageing process is not yet being sufficiently exploited to produce effective medical interventions. The BGRF funds and conducts research which, building on the body of knowledge about how ageing happens, aims to develop biotechnological interventions to remediate the molecular and cellular deficits which accumulate with age and which underlie the ill-health of old age. Addressing ageing damage at this most fundamental level will provide an important opportunity to produce the effective, lasting treatments for the diseases and disabilities of ageing, required to improve quality of life in the elderly. The BGRF seeks to use the entire scope of modern biotechnology to attack the changes that take place in the course of ageing, and to address not just the symptoms of age-related diseases but also the mechanisms of those diseases.