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.

Patient Based Therapeutics – Part 4

Photo of Dr. Fumihiko Urano

Dr. Fumihiko Urano

Patient-Based Therapeutics Part 4 – Drug Screening Progress

Based on the data obtained from our patients, animal models, and cell models of Wolfram syndrome, we found that calcium depletion of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) plays a role in the pathogenesis of Wolfram syndrome. So we have been looking for drugs that can prevent ER calcium-depletion-mediated cell death.  As of today, we have found 4 FDA-approved drugs (currently used for other diseases), one supplement, and a new category of drugs (not approved by the FDA). One of the FDA-approved drugs can prevent ER calcium-depletion and cell death in the tissue culture dish. It seems like that this drug can relieve ER stress in one animal model of Wolfram syndrome. We are working very hard to complete these preclinical studies. The ER calcium-depletion releases a molecule called MANF from the ER to the circulation. So we are carefully monitoring levels of MANF in human blood samples.
So how long will it take to bring one of these drugs to our patients? I would like to share a few thoughts.
1. There is no guarantee that these drugs will work in our patients.
2. It is a little challenging for me to predict exactly how long it will take to bring these drugs to our patients.
3. However, I have a clear plan, and am doing my best to make it happen.
Dr. Fumihiko Urano 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.

In Memory of K by Dr. Fumihiko Urano

A Few weeks ago, a young woman who had been battling Wolfram syndrome for many years passed away.  Everyone knew, loved and supported her.  Below is a touching blog post from Washington University School of Medicine’s Dr. Fumihiko Urano about our friend, Ms. K.

In Memory of K

Yesterday I was heartbroken because I learned of the death of Ms. K, a young woman with Wolfram syndrome. I was not helpful. I could not even find a way to delay the progression of the disease. I felt devastated. I really felt devastated. I was very sad and could not respond to any emails for several hours.
As a person, I sometimes feel scared. Although I am always doing my best and determined to figure out a way to help patients with Wolfram syndrome, I know that I am not a god. The treatment I am planning to test may not be effective. I often wake up at midnight and feel scared. However, as a physician, I swear to figure out a way to stop the progression of Wolfram syndrome, find a way to regenerate damaged tissues, and give patients hope. I think I should keep on running to figure out a way to help patients with Wolfram syndrome.
I saw Ms. K reading a poem entitled a single second in time, which reminded me of Sam Berns, a wonderful young man with progeria, a rare disease characterized by accelerated aging. Sam passed away earlier this year. Although he was much younger than myself, I learned a lot from him and his interviews. You may want to watch the following video and read Dr. Francis Collin’s blog on him. His philosophy for a happy life is a wonderful piece to watch. Take care everyone, and have a nice weekend. I will appreciate a single second in time just like Ms. K.

The Power of Wolfram: The Weapon to Combat Type 1 Diabetes

Why do I study such a rare disease as Wolfram Syndrome?

I am often asked, “Why do you study such a rare disease, Wolfram?” My answer is, “It is the weapon to combat common diseases.” My secret answer is, “I want to help Wolfram patients and their families.”

Why it is so important to study Wolfram syndrome, a rare condition characterized by juvenile-onset diabetes, optic atrophy, and neurodegeneration? It is a frightening condition. Wolfram syndrome is always on my mind just like pediatric cancer was always on my mind when I was a young doctor (some people still think that I am a young doctor…thank you). I just want to help them. That’s all I want. This is my last research project.From a scientific standpoint, I always believe that there is a tremendous benefit for us to study Wolfram syndrome. Increasing evidence now indicates that endoplasmic reticulum (ER) dysfunction is involved in more common diseases, especially type 1 diabetes. I propose that Wolfram syndrome is the “weapon to combat type 1 diabetes.“Despite its rarity, Wolfram syndrome probably represents the best model currently available for identifying treatments for diseases associated with ER dysfunction. Wolfram syndrome arises from mutation of a single gene (WFS1), a gene shown to be also involved in β cell dysfunction and death in other forms of diabetes mellitus. Its monogenic etiology makes Wolfram syndrome more amenable to dissecting out the mechanisms underpinning cellular responses to ER dysfunction than other diabetic conditions, such as type 1 diabetes mellitus, in which multiple factors typically interact to produce the disease manifestations.

Photo of Dr. Fumihiko Urano

Dr. Fumihiko Urano

Dr. Fumihiko Urano 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 3

Research Update from
Dr. Fumihiko Urano

Patient-Based Therapeutics Part 3
Photo of Dr. Bess Marshall, Dr. Fumi Urano, Dr. Tamara Hershey

LEFT TO RIGHT: Dr. Bess Marshall, Dr. Fumi Urano, Dr. Tamara Hershey

Instead of introducing my research activities,  I would like to introduce my colleagues today. I have a lot of colleagues who have been helping me develop diagnostics and therapeutics for Wolfram at the Washington University Medical Center. Without their help, I cannot accomplish anything. I give many lectures and talks on Wolfram syndrome, but I feel that I am just a spokesperson or a salesman of our team.

Today I would like to introduce Dr. Bess Marshall and Dr. Tamara Hershey. Dr. Marshall is a pediatric endocrinologist and serves as a medical director of our annual Wolfram clinic. Dr. Marshall is an experienced, smart, and caring physician scientist. Dr. Hershey is a neuropsychologist and serves as a scientific director of our Wolfram clinic. Dr. Hershey is thoughtful, smart, and extremely good at getting things done. They are powerful driving force of our Wolfram project! I always appreciate their continuous support and advice. Here is their picture! (From left to right: Dr. Marshall, Fumi, and Dr. Hershey)

Dr. Fumihiko Urano 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 2

Photo of Dr. Fumihiko Urano

Dr. Fumihiko Urano

Research Update from
Dr. Fumihiko Urano

Patient-Based Therapeutics Part 2

We are taking an unconventional approach to develop therapeutics for Wolfram syndrome. I would call it “patient-based therapeutics.” This implies a few things. One of these is the “mechanism-based treatment.” How can we achieve this component of “patient-based therapeutics” for Wolfram syndrome? Here are our current efforts.

1. Looking for FDA-approved drugs that can potentially halt progression of Wolfram syndrome (drug repurposing).
We looked for drugs that can protect cell death mediated by the leakage of calcium from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to the cytosol. We found four FDA approved drugs and one supplement so far. We are testing these drugs in Wolfram iPSC-derived neural progenitor cells and mouse models of Wolfram syndrome.

2. Looking for a new class of drugs that can protect cell death mediated by endoplasmic reticulum dysfunction.
We have developed a drug screening method to identify drugs that can protect cell death mediated by ER dysfunction. In collaboration with a non-profit organization, we are actively looking for a new class of drugs that can potentially halt the progression of Wolfram.

3. Testing if MANF (mesencephalic astrocyte-derived neurotrophic factor) can suppress the ER calcium leakage-mediated neuronal cell dysfunction in Wolfram iPSC-derived neural progenitor cells.

I will talk about more on MANF some other time. I thought that this was a good biomarker for Wolfram syndrome because expression of this molecule is increased by ER dysfunction. However, the increase of MANF might be an adaptive mechanism of our cells to cope with abnormal ER function.

Dr. Fumihiko Urano 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.