James W. Fawcett, Ph.D.,
University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
By Sam Maddox
The Reeve Foundation has funded several projects involving the enzyme chondroitinase (ch'ase) to dissolve proteogycans and promote spinal cord regeneration.
The James Fawcett lab at the University of Cambridge, in England, part of the Reeve Foundation International Research Consortium on Spinal Cord Injury, showed that ch'ase digests proteoglycans. This removes inhibition, but also stimulates nerve growth. The Fawcett lab took out a patent on chrondroitinase for axon plasticity; Acorda Therapeutics licensed the molecule for potential clinical use. Fawcett hopes to move forward for a clinical trial in the not-too-distant future.
Here are four other individual investigator grants funded by the Foundation:
BinQuan Zhuang, Ph.D., Linda C. Hsieh-Wilson, Ph.D., California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA. The lab discovered a specific structural pattern on chondroitin sulfate that is responsible for its inhibitory role. Masking this structure promotes regeneration of injured optic nerves.
John G. Flanagan, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA. The Flanagan lab recently identified a receptor for chondroitin sulfate and hypothesized that it will be possible to neutralize it and thus promote spinal cord regeneration.
Shuxin Li, M.D., Ph.D., UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. The Li lab hypothesizes that small molecules might be used to block rather than digest proteoglycan inhibitors.
Charles H. Tator, M.D., Ph.D., The Toronto Western Hospital Research Institute, Toronto, ON, Canada. This project examines a combination of treatments to repair the injured spinal cord in the chronic stage: transplanted chitosan guidance channels, spinal cord-derived neural stem cell progenitors, scaffolds made of a fibrin substance, plus ch'ase injected at the ends of the channels.
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