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Oxford BioMedica one step closer to Holy Grail of nerve damage

Published on 03/06/04 at 05:00pm

The promise of a gene-based technology which might one day cure spinal injuries and paralysis has moved one step closer with promising results from an Oxford BioMedica treatment.

The UK biotechnology company says its new study of gene therapy Innurex has shown the ability to restore function to damaged limbs in rats with 'avulsion injuries'- a severe pulling or stretching of nerves often seen in serious sports injuries and road traffic accidents.

The company will now submit the data for peer review, and says Innurex could meet the 'long sought goal' of treating nerve damage and spinal injury by inducing nerve cells to regrow and bridge sites of injury, reconnecting nerve fibres and restoring the use of a limb.

Professor Alan Kingsman, Oxford BioMedica chief executive, said: "Innurex goes from strength to strength. In December of last year we announced that Innurex had been shown to induce nerve regrowth in vivo. We now know that the regrowth is significant in that injured limbs regain both movement and sensation as a result of treatment with Innurex."

The company has developed its own gene therapy delivery system called LentiVector which uses specially modified viruses to transport genes to a wide range of dividing and non-dividing cells in the body, including neurons in the brain.

In this instance, the gene is the RAR2 gene, a subtype of the retinoic acid receptor, its potential first identified through research by King College London, from which the company has now acquired exclusive rights. In April this year the college was awarded a grant for further research by one of the most high profile charities in the area - the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation.

The news follows hot on the heels of another promising Oxford BioMedica study, this time into the treatment of motor neuron disease, which currently has no known cure. The pre-clinical studies show an injection of the company's MoNuDin, a vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) gene into mice with the condition resulted in a significant slowing of the disease's progress.


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