New gene therapy for ALS and frontotemporal dementia

Neuroscientists have developed a single-dose genetic medicine that has been proven to halt the progression of both ALS and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) in mice – and may even offer the potential to reverse some of the effects of the fatal diseases.

It may also hold opportunities for treating more common forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

The new treatment, dubbed CTx1000, targets pathological build-ups of the protein TDP-43 in cells in the brain and spinal cord, which has been It has been associated with ALS, FTD and other forms of dementia. The research team hopes to see CTx1000 begin human clinical trials in as little as two years.

Cells like neurons produce TDP‑43 naturally, and it is important for their healthy function. Under certain conditions, it accumulates in the wrong part of the cells, clogging them and preventing them from working properly. 

For the past 15 years, the team have been researching pathological TDP-43 build‑up.

The senior author says in their latest findings, have discovered for the first time that where there is pathological TDP‑43, there is also an increase in a second protein, 14‑3‑3.

“The two proteins interact, resulting in these build-ups in the cells,” the author says.

“From this, we were able to isolate a short peptide that controls this interaction, and that’s what we used to create CTx1000.

“When we administered it in the lab, it dissolved the build-ups, tagging TDP-43 proteins for recycling by the body, and prevented new ones from forming.

“Importantly, CTx1000 targets only pathological TDP-43, allowing the healthy version of the protein to be produced and go about its work unhindered.”

The senior author says this makes CTx1000 incredibly safe, and they have seen no adverse effects in their studies.

Lead author of the paper says in lab conditions, CTx1000 stopped ALS and FTD from progressing even at very advanced stages, and resolved the behavioural symptoms associated with FTD.

“We have great hopes that when this progresses to human trials, it will not only stop people from dying from both ALS and FTD, but even allow patients to regaining some of the lost function through rehabilitation,” the lead says.

CTx1000 is one of the key discoveries being championed by Celosia Therapeutics, a Macquarie University spin-out company formed in 2022 to help bring the groundbreaking work of the University’s neuroscientists from the lab to patients.