NAGOYA, JAPAN, Oct. 25, 1999 -- Researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine and Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Nasdaq: ALXN) today reported that transplanting genetically modified pig cells into surgically damaged spinal cords of non-human primates can regenerate the myelin sheath around the injured fragment of the spinal cord. Alexion believes that these results represent a critical milestone in progressing its spinal cord product into patient trials.
The report, entitled "Xenotransplantation of Transgenic Pig Myelin Forming Cells Promotes Axonal Regeneration and Restores Conduction Across the Transected Spinal Cord," is based on research conducted in the laboratories of Dr. Jeffrey D. Kocsis of the Department of Neurology, Yale University School of Medicine, and Dr. William L. Fodor, Senior Director of Xenotransplantation at Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and their colleagues.
"This promising data demonstrates that immunoprotected transgenic pig cells can survive and regenerate myelin sheaths around damaged neurons within the spinal cords of non-human primates," said Stephen Squinto, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Alexion. "Together with our findings also presented today which showed that these transgenic pig cells both engraft and restore electrical conductance in rodent models of spinal injury, these data suggest that this approach may lead to the development of a new therapy for spinal cord injury patients."
Specific antibody binding to the surface of a foreign cell initiates a process
called the "complement" cascade, which results in the destruction of the foreign
cell. Complement-mediated rejection of nerve cell xenografts presents a major
obstacle to effectively replacing damaged cells in the central nervous system.
Alexion scientists address this problem in two ways. First, they produce pig
cells that reduce or eliminate the expression of certain pig sugars which are
targeted by the triggering antibod
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