CDNF rescues (maybe) motor neurons in models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis by targeting endoplasmic reticulum stress

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There's a new post on one of my favorite topics: ER (endoplasmic reticulum) stress and ALS. If ER stress becomes chronic, as it does in many neurological diseases, it can cause proteins to misfold and accumulate in the cytosol, exactly what is found in ALS.

There are already drugs that target ER stress in ALS, for example Sephin1 also known as IFB-088 or icerguastat.

This new publication comes from an independent group in Finland.

One of the interesting aspects of this work is that they tested their drug candidate on 3 types of animal models (a fast TDP-43 model and a slow model, 1 SOD1). However, TDP-43 animal models are not commercial and it is therefore impossible to quickly reproduce their results. As usual with ALS animal models, the mice die quickly which does not reflect the human disease.

The authors used transgenic technology to produce brain dopamine neurotrophic factor (CDNF) in vivo. Activation of the transgene was as usual conditioned on the withdrawal of doxycycline in the diet. The method of administration was quite intrusive and would be difficult to replicate in human patients. A continuous infusion of 6 µg/day of CDNF or phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) as vehicle into the lateral ventricle of the brain (where the motor neurons are located).

Neurotrophic factors support the survival of dopamine neurons. Brain dopamine neurotrophic factor (CDNF) is a novel neurotrophic factor with strong trophic activity on dopamine neurons comparable to that of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF). It is often cited in articles on Parkinson's disease. The CDNF protein is found primarily in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) of cells. ER is an important cellular organelle primarily involved in the folding of approximately one third of all proteins in the cell. enter image description here The authors' claims are impressive: "We found that administering CDNF to ALS mice and rats significantly improved their motor behavior and stopped the progression of paralysis symptoms. The improvement in symptoms was reflected in an increased number of surviving motor neurons in the spinal cord. spinal cord of animals compared to rodents that did not receive “CDNF. Our experiments suggest that CDNF could rescue motor neurons by reducing the ER stress response and, consequently, cell death. Importantly, ER stress was present in all of our animal models, regardless of specific genetic mutations,” explains study lead author Dr. Francesca De Lorenzo.

However, if we read the text carefully, only one animal model (SOD1) showed benefits, and the progression was slowed by 8 days or about a year for a human, which is an impressive result.

  • In SOD1-G93A mice, the median survival time for females was 148 days for CDNF-treated mice and 140 days for PBS-treated mice, with an increase of 8 days. In males, median survival was 140.5 days for CDNF-treated mice and 132 days for PBS-treated mice, with an increase of 8.5 days. This likely corresponds to SOD1-G93A mice treated daily with riluzole in drinking water.

  • Based on the text and supplementary materials, it appears that there was no benefit in survival time for either TDP-43 mouse models.

Yet, and this is a bit worrying, the abstract states "We show that intracerebroventricular administration of brain dopamine neurotrophic factor significantly arrests disease progression and improves motor behavior in the TDP43-M337V and SOD1 rodent models -G93A amyotrophic lateral sclerosis."

Since most people only read the summary or popular science articles, they are misled.

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