Stem cell-based therapy using skin cells from patients

I have been thinking a lot about stem cell-based therapy for patients with Wolfram syndrome. We have created many induced pluripotent stem cell lines (iPS cell lines) using skin cells from patients with Wolfram syndrome. In theory, we can create any types of cells using these iPS cells.

The idea of stem cell-based therapy for diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases is not new anymore, and there are multiple ongoing clinical trials. The key to success for stem cell-based therapy is to establish methods for creating high-quality insulin-producing cells, eye cells, and different types of brain cells. We should keep on working on stem cell-based therapy for Wolfram syndrome.

Combating Wolfram Syndrome

We have the pleasure of sharing the posts from Dr. Urano’s blog “Combating Wolfram Syndrome”.  Below are his posts for the week of July 21-25.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Endoplasmic Reticulum Disease Clinic 1

Thank you for your feedback for my blog.
http://wolframsyndrome.blogspot.com/2014/07/a-platform-for-providing-immediate-care_24.html
We need to consider multiple factors and logistics for establishing “Endoplasmic Reticulum Disease Clinic.” We need space, motivated physicians and nurses, and knowledgeable administrators. To accept out-of-state patients, we need to provide information and discount of hotels nearby. I feel that we can accomplish this.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Platform for Providing An Immediate Care for Patients 2

Thank you for your valuable feedback for my yesterday’s blog.
http://wolframsyndrome.blogspot.com/2014/07/a-platform-for-providing-immediate-care.htmlI feel that we need to create an interdisciplinary clinic where the integration of physicians across disciplines can lead to an improvement in the management of patients with Wolfram and Wolfram-related disorders (diseases related to ER stress). The key is that all the physicians are on the same floor and a patient can see them on the same day. I am working on a blueprint. Let’s call it “Endoplasmic Reticulum Disease Clinic“.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Platform For Providing An Immediate Care for Patients 1 

I often think about this topic. What is the best platform for providing an immediate care for a patient with Wolfram and other rare diseases? My idea is to establish a multidisciplinary clinic for Wolfram and related diseases. When an undiagnosed patient comes to a hospital, he/she will see a medical geneticist/internist to get a correct diagnosis, and then a patient is referred to multiple specialists on the same floor. The key is that all the doctors are on the same floor so that a patient does not need to walk around a big medical center. I will keep on thinking about this. I welcome any feedback from you.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Please contact us if you receive a medicine for an “off-label” use

If you are a patient with Wolfram syndrome and have been prescribed a medicine for an “off-label” use, I would appreciate if you contact us (Phone: 314-362-8683, urano@dom.wustl.edu).
http://wolframsyndrome.dom.wustl.edu/As I mentioned in my previous blogs, the law let physicians prescribe a FDA-approved drug to treat a condition for which it is not approved. This is called an “off-label” use. Many physicians are compassionate, and try to help their Wolfram patients by prescribing a drug for an “off-label” use. I often get questions from physicians and patients related to an “off-label” use. Although I don’t recommend any specific FDA-approved drugs at the moment, I would gladly answer your questions. If you are receiving a drug for an off-label use, we can monitor biomarker levels for you and your physician. I respect your and your physician’s decision. So please contact us. I just want to help.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Consultation Clinic 2

As I mentioned in my previous blog, it would be important to establish a consultation clinic for Wolfram at Saint Louis Children’s Hospital for pediatric patients and at Barnes-Jewish Hospital for adult patients. We can do this using regular clinic space or set up new space. For the latter, we probably need to include other rare diseases into our platform. There are several advantages for this. My big idea is to set up a platform for regular care for patients with rare diseases.
http://wolframsyndrome.blogspot.com/2014/07/consultation-clinic.html

Photo of Dr. Fumihiko Urano Combating Wolfram Syndrome

Dr. Fumihiko Urano

Dr. Urano is a renowned physician and scientist developing therapeutics and diagnostics for Wolfram syndrome and juvenile onset diabetes. His areas of expertise include Wolfram syndrome, type 1 diabetes, Pediatric pathology and genetics and Molecular Endocrinology.  He is currently employed at the Washington University School of Medicine where he holds the Samuel E. Schechter Professor of Medicine, 2012 – present.

Three Step Formula to Provide a Cure for Wolfram Syndrome

I presented my strategy for providing a cure for Wolfram syndrome at the clinic this weekend. I think there are three steps to achieve this.

1. Stop the progression
2. Protect and Regrow remaining tissues
3. Replace damaged tissues

Slide01
Our current focus is to “Stop the progression” of the disease. We are testing if FDA-approved drugs currently used for other diseases may be beneficial for Wolfram syndrome patients, and we have four candidates. We are also developing new drugs specifically designed for Wolfram syndrome. 

We plan to use MANF for protecting remaining tissues, especially eye cells. Our final step is to replace damaged tissues using regenerative medicine. I will keep on talking about these.

 

 

Wolfram Research Clinic Day 2: Thank you and Thank you

I always appreciate the efforts of all the medical staff, administrative staff, volunteers, researchers, interpreters, and others who have been involved in the Wolfram syndrome research clinic.

It is my privilege to serve for patients with Wolfram syndrome and work with dedicated people who have been involved in our Wolfram syndrome research. My team has been working very hard to develop a novel drug for Wolfram syndrome.

I believe that our patients who are attending this year’s clinic are a little tired now. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your faith in us. We have one more day to go!

Fumi Headshot

Wolfram Research Clinic Day 1: Biomarker???

Wolfram research clinic is ongoing and our patients are going through many tests. At this year’s clinic, we are collecting blood samples from not only patients but also their parents and siblings. Why? The reason is we plan to measure “BIOMARKER” levels in these samples.

What is a biomarker? A biomarker is a molecule found in blood or tissues that is a sign of a disease. We found two candidate biomarkers for Wolfram syndrome. The levels of these biomarkers are higher in patients’ blood samples than in non-patients’ blood samples. These biomarkers can be used to see how patients respond to a treatment.Here is an example. Blue: Patients, Red: Non-Patients.

Here is another one. 1: Non-Patients, 2: Patients, 3: Patients after a treatment

 

Wolfram Research Clinic – Day 0

By Dr. Fumihiko Urano

Our annual Wolfram syndrome research clinic will start today, and I met with most of the patients and their families last night. I have been very impressed by them.

WS Clinic2014_Raquel Consent

9-year old Raquel Gebel signing her own consent form to participate in the 2014 clinic.

In this clinic, we don’t provide any treatment. We just collect information and samples from patients, their parents and siblings. All of them are so patient and wonderful human beings. My team has been working very hard to identify the best FDA approved drugs (currently used for other diseases) that could delay the progression of Wolfram syndrome (off-label). In parallel, we are developing new drugs specifically designed for Wolfram syndrome to stop the progression (requires clinical trials). We have made significant progress in the past 12 months and I plan to present my strategy on this coming Saturday.

Why are we creating eye cells using skin cells from patients?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014
By Dr. Fumihiko Urano

eyeWhy are we creating eye cells using skin cells from patients? More accurately, we are creating two different types of retinal cells using stem cells derived from skin fibroblasts of patients with Wolfram syndrome. We can immediately use these cells to understand the mechanisms of the disease and test the efficacy of candidate drugs. That’s a practical goal and should be achievable.

My audacious goal is to use these cells to replace damaged eye cells in patients. There are many theoretical and practical hurdles to accomplish this, but we should try. Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.

Patient Based Therapeutics – New Drug Candidates

New Drug Candidates

As I mentioned in my previous blogs, we have identified three FDA-approved drugs, one supplement, and new groups of drugs that can potentially delay the progression of Wolfram syndrome. We have been testing the efficacy of these drugs in cells from patients and two animal models of Wolfram syndrome. Preliminary data look good, and we have been working very hard to bring at least one drug to patients.

We have also identified a potential biomarker that would be useful for monitoring the efficacy of our new treatment. I would like to thank patients who donated blood samples to us. Recently, some families donated blood samples from patients’ siblings, and these samples were really helpful to confirm our findings.

I have been trying to establish firm relationships with biotech companies and nonprofit organizations to bring these drugs to our patients through clinical trials. Our lawyers have been helping us a lot. I will keep on pushing the envelope with my wonderful team and colleagues.

Photo of Dr. Fumihiko Urano

Dr. Fumihiko Urano

 

Dr. Fumihiko Urano is a renowned physician and scientist developing therapeutics and diagnostics for Wolfram syndrome and juvenile onset diabetes.  His areas of expertise include Wolfram syndrome, type 1 diabetes, Pediatric pathology and genetics and Molecular Endocrinology.  He is currently employed at the Washington University School of Medicine where he holds the Samuel E. Schechter Professor of Medicine, 2012 – present.

Patient-Based Therapeutics Part 6

Wolfram Syndrome iPS Cells Progress

I received many emails regarding our progress on Wolfram syndrome induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) in the past two weeks. I would like to update you on a few things. As I mentioned in my previous blogs, we have created many iPS cells from skin cells of patients with Wolfram syndrome. These iPS cells can differentiate into various types of cells including brain cells and pancreatic beta cells that are damaged in patients with Wolfram syndrome

1. Disease modeling 
We could successfully differentiate these iPS cells into neural progenitor cells. These are immature brain cells. We found that neural progenitor cells from patients are not completely damaged, which was surprising, but good news to us. Instead, they have altered calcium homeostasis. My impression right now is that cells from patients with Wolfram syndrome are “sensitive” to environmental stress, especially stimulus that changes cellular calcium levels. So we are looking for drugs that can modulate calcium homeostasis in cells to develop a treatment for Wolfram syndrome.

2. Testing drugs
As I mentioned above, we are focusing on drugs that can modulate calcium homeostasis in cells, especially endoplasmic reticulum calcium levels, to develop a treatment. Three drugs out of five candidate drugs that we have identified so far can control endoplasmic reticulum calcium levels. We are testing these three drugs using iPS cells.

3. Correcting a mutation
Using a special enzyme and artificial DNA, we are replacing an abnormal segment of Wolfram gene with a normal segment of Wolfram gene in patient-derived iPS cells. In theory, we should be able to correct altered calcium homeostasis through this process.

4. Making eye cells
A group in Columbia University Medical Center in New York could successfully make pancreatic beta cells from Wolfram syndrome iPS cells. We are collaborating with this group. So we are focusing our own efforts on making eye cells from Wolfram syndrome iPS cells. This is a collaboration project with a group in a major medical center in Japan. They have a special “recipe” for making eye cells. Because a clinical trial using this technology for an eye disease will start in a few weeks in Japan, I feel that this collaboration is so important for us. A physician and scientist who is working on this collaboration project will come to the US and work with us in a few months. The arrangement has been made, and the Japanese agency will partially support this effort.

You may be interested in a clinical study using iPS cells for an eye disease. Here is some info.
http://blogs.nature.com/news/2013/07/japan-to-start-stem-cell-study-on-humans.html
http://www.riken.jp/en/pr/press/2013/20130730_1/

Photo of Dr. Fumihiko Urano

Dr. Fumihiko Urano

 

Dr. Fumihiko Urano is a renowned physician and scientist developing therapeutics and diagnostics for Wolfram syndrome and juvenile onset diabetes.  His areas of expertise include Wolfram syndrome, type 1 diabetes, Pediatric pathology and genetics and Molecular Endocrinology.  He is currently employed at the Washington University School of Medicine where he holds the Samuel E. Schechter Professor of Medicine, 2012 – present. 

Patient-Based Therapeutics Part 5 – Wolfram Syndrome iPSCs

Wolfram Syndrome iPSCs

Today I would like to discuss how we use induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) derived from patients with Wolfram syndrome for developing treatment. Our group as well as a group in Columbia University have created iPS cells from patients with Wolfram syndrome.What are induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells)?
iPS cells are a type of stem cells that can be generated directly from adult cells, including skin cells. We can make pancreatic beta cells and neurons from these iPS cells.How can we use Wolfram syndrome iPS cells for treatment?
We can expect that Wolfram syndrome patients iPS cell lines and Wolfram iPS cell-derived beta cells to be a cornerstone for developing novel therapeutic modalities for Wolfram syndrome and other diseases involving endoplasmic reticulum (ER) dysfunction. We can utilize these cells to screen and identify drugs for treating patients with Wolfram syndrome and other ER-associated diseases.Regenerate Damaged Tissues
In the future, we can utilize these cells to regenerate damaged tissues including pancreatic beta cells, retinal ganglion cells (eye cells), and neurons in patients with Wolfram syndrome. Rapid progress in genetic editing technologies and regenerative medicine will make it possible to correct WFS1 mutations in patient-specific iPSC lines and regenerate patients’ damaged cells. Our current progress:
1. Using these Wolfram iPS cells, we have identified a drug target for developing treatment (our manuscript is in review.)
2. As I reported before, we are currently testing the efficacy of five different drugs using iPS cell-derived neurons.
3. We are correcting a WFS1 gene mutation by genetic editing and making eye cells using these iPS cells.We should make the best use of these cells to develop treatments for Wolfram syndrome, efforts that may lead to breakthroughs in diabetes treatment. I have articulated my strategy in the article just published in Diabetes.
http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/63/3/844.full

Photo of Dr. Fumihiko Urano

Dr. Fumihiko Urano

 

Dr. Fumihiko Urano is a renowned physician and scientist developing therapeutics and diagnostics for Wolfram syndrome and juvenile onset diabetes.  His areas of expertise include Wolfram syndrome, type 1 diabetes, Pediatric pathology and genetics and Molecular Endocrinology.  He is currently employed at the Washington University School of Medicine where he holds the Samuel E. Schechter Professor of Medicine, 2012 – present.