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1.  Frontotemporal Degeneration, the Next Therapeutic Frontier: Molecules and Animal Models for FTD drug development (Part 1 of 2 articles) 
Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD) is a common cause of dementia for which there are currently no approved therapies. Over the past decade there has been an explosion of knowledge about the biology and clinical features of FTD that has identified a number of promising therapeutic targets as well as animal models in which to develop drugs. The close association of some forms of FTD with neuropathological accumulation of tau protein or increased neuroinflammation due to progranulin protein deficiency suggests that a drug’s success in treating FTD may predict efficacy in more common diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD). A variety of regulatory incentives, clinical features of FTD, such as rapid disease progression, and relatively pure molecular pathology, suggest that there are advantages to developing drugs for FTD as compared to other more common neurodegenerative diseases such as AD. In March 2011, the Frontotemporal Dementia Treatment Study Group (FTSG) sponsored a conference entitled,“ FTD, the Next Therapeutic Frontier,” focused on pre-clinical aspects of FTD drug development. The goal of the meeting was to promote collaborations between academic researchers and biotechnology and pharmaceutical researchers to accelerate the development of new treatments for FTD. Here we report the key findings from the conference, including the rationale for FTD drug development, epidemiological, genetic and neuropathological features of FTD, FTD animal models and how best to use them and examples of successful drug-development collaborations in other neurodegenerative diseases.
doi:10.1016/j.jalz.2012.03.002
PMCID: PMC3542408  PMID: 23043900
2.  The Advantages of FTD Drug Development (Part 2 of FTD: The Next Therapeutic Frontier) 
Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD) encompasses a spectrum of related neurodegenerative disorders with behavioral, language and motor phenotypes for which there are currently no effective therapies. This manuscript is the second of two articles that summarize the presentations and discussions that occurred at two symposia in 2011 sponsored by the Frontotemporal Dementia Treatment Study Group (FTSG), a collaborative group of academic and industry researchers that is devoted to developing treatments for FTD. This manuscript discusses the current status of FTD clinical research that is relevant to the conduct of clinical trials and why FTD research may be an attractive pathway for developing therapies for neurodegenerative disorders. The clinical and molecular features of FTD, including rapid disease progression and relatively pure molecular pathology, suggest that there are advantages to developing drugs for FTD as compared to other dementias. FTD qualifies as orphan indication, providing additional advantages for drug development. Two recent sets of consensus diagnostic criteria will facilitate the identification of patients with FTD, and a variety of neuropsychological, functional and behavioral scales have been shown to be sensitive to disease progression. Moreover, quantitative neuroimaging measurements demonstrate progressive brain atrophy in FTD at rates that may surpass Alzheimer's disease (AD). Finally, the similarities between FTD and other neurodegenerative diseases with drug development efforts already underway suggest that FTD researchers will be able to draw upon this experience to create a roadmap for FTD drug development. We conclude that FTD research has reached sufficient maturity to pursue clinical development of specific FTD therapies.
doi:10.1016/j.jalz.2012.03.003
PMCID: PMC3562382  PMID: 23062850
3.  Deletion of galectin-3 exacerbates microglial activation and accelerates disease progression and demise in a SOD1G93A mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Brain and Behavior  2012;2(5):563-575.
Galectins are pleiotropic carbohydrate-binding lectins involved in inflammation, growth/differentiation, and tissue remodeling. The functional role of galectins in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is unknown. Expression studies revealed increases in galectin-1 mRNA and protein in spinal cords from SOD1G93A mice, and in galectin-3 and -9 mRNAs and proteins in spinal cords of both SOD1G93A mice and sporadic ALS patients. As the increase in galectin-3 appeared in early presymptomatic stages and increased progressively through to end stage of disease in the mouse, it was selected for additional study, where it was found to be mainly expressed by microglia. Galectin-3 antagonists are not selective and do not readily cross the blood–brain barrier; therefore, we generated SOD1G93A/Gal-3−/− transgenic mice to evaluate galectin-3 deletion in a widely used mouse model of ALS. Disease progression, neurological symptoms, survival, and inflammation were assessed to determine the effect of galectin-3 deletion on the SOD1G93A disease phenotype. Galectin-3 deletion did not change disease onset, but resulted in more rapid progression through functionally defined disease stages, more severely impaired neurological symptoms at all stages of disease, and expiration, on average, 25 days earlier than SOD1G93A/Gal-3+/+ cohorts. In addition, microglial staining, as well as TNF-α, and oxidative injury were increased in SOD1G93A/Gal-3−/− mice compared with SOD1G93A/Gal-3+/+ cohorts. These data support an important functional role for microglial galectin-3 in neuroinflammation during chronic neurodegenerative disease. We suggest that elevations in galectin-3 by microglia as disease progresses may represent a protective, anti-inflammatory innate immune response to chronic motor neuron degeneration.
doi:10.1002/brb3.75
PMCID: PMC3489809  PMID: 23139902
Alternative activation; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; microglia; motor neuron disease; SOD1
4.  Creation of an Open-Access, Mutation-Defined Fibroblast Resource for Neurological Disease Research 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43099.
Our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of many neurological disorders has been greatly enhanced by the discovery of mutations in genes linked to familial forms of these diseases. These have facilitated the generation of cell and animal models that can be used to understand the underlying molecular pathology. Recently, there has been a surge of interest in the use of patient-derived cells, due to the development of induced pluripotent stem cells and their subsequent differentiation into neurons and glia. Access to patient cell lines carrying the relevant mutations is a limiting factor for many centres wishing to pursue this research. We have therefore generated an open-access collection of fibroblast lines from patients carrying mutations linked to neurological disease. These cell lines have been deposited in the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) Repository at the Coriell Institute for Medical Research and can be requested by any research group for use in in vitro disease modelling. There are currently 71 mutation-defined cell lines available for request from a wide range of neurological disorders and this collection will be continually expanded. This represents a significant resource that will advance the use of patient cells as disease models by the scientific community.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0043099
PMCID: PMC3428297  PMID: 22952635
5.  Ganglioside synthase knockout in oncogene-transformed fibroblasts depletes gangliosides and impairs tumor growth 
Oncogene  2010;29(22):3297-3306.
Biologically active membrane gangliosides, expressed and released by many human tumors, are hypothesized to significantly impact tumor progression. Lack of a model of complete and specific tumor ganglioside depletion in vivo, however, has hampered elucidation of their role. Here we report the creation of a novel, stable, genetically induced tumor cell system resulting in specific and complete blockade of ganglioside synthesis. Wild type (WT) and GM3 synthase/GM2 synthase double knockout (DKO) murine embryonic fibroblasts were transformed using amphotropic retrovirus-transduced oncogenes (pBABE-c-MycT58A+H-RasG12V). The transformed cells, WTt and DKOt respectively, evidenced comparable integrated copy numbers and oncogene expression. Ganglioside synthesis was completely blocked in the DKOt cells, importantly without triggering an alternate pathway of ganglioside synthesis. Ganglioside depletion (to <0.5 nmol/107 cells from 9-11 nmol/107 WTt or untransfected normal fibroblasts) did not adversely affect cell proliferation kinetics but did reduce cell migration on fibronectin-coated wells, consistent with our previous observations in ganglioside-depleted normal human fibroblasts. Strikingly, despite similar oncogene expression and growth kinetics, DKOt cells evidenced significantly impaired tumor growth in syngeneic immunocompetent mice, underscoring the pivotal role of tumor cell gangliosides and providing an ideal system for probing their mechanisms of action in vivo.
doi:10.1038/onc.2010.85
PMCID: PMC2880627  PMID: 20305696
ganglioside synthesis; ganglioside depletion; tumor model; c-Myc/H-Ras transformation; tumorigenesis
6.  Construction of long DNA molecules using long PCR-based fusion of several fragments simultaneously 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(2):e19.
A procedure for precise assembly of linear DNA constructs as long as 20 kb is proposed. The method, which we call long multiple fusion, has been used to assemble up to four fragments simultaneously (for a 10.8 kb final product), offering an additional improvement on the combination of long PCR and overlap extension PCR. The method is based on Pfu polymerase mix, which has a proofreading activity. We successfully assembled (and confirmed by sequencing) seven different linear constructs ranging from 3 to 20 kb, including two 20 kb products (from fragments of 11, 1.7 and 7.5 kb), two 10.8 kb constructs, and two constructs of 6.1 and 6.2 kb, respectively. Accuracy of the PCR fusion is greater than or equal to one error per 6.6 kb, which is consistent with the expected error rate of the PCR mix. The method is expected to facilitate various kinds of complex genetic engineering projects that require precise in-frame assembly of multiple fragments, such as somatic cell knockout in human cells or creation of whole genomes of viruses for vaccine research.
doi:10.1093/nar/gnh014
PMCID: PMC373371  PMID: 14739232
7.  Rating waiting 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2002;324(7351):1443.
PMCID: PMC1123387
8.  A dog's life 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2001;323(7307):270.
PMCID: PMC1120886

Results 1-8 (8)