Investing in a stem cell treatment for Hurler syndrome

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) awarded $5,444,353 to Dr. Natalia Gomez-Ospina and her team at Stanford University for a late-stage preclinical program targeting Severe Mucopolysaccharidosis type 1, also known as Hurler syndrome. This is an inherited condition caused by a faulty gene.

Children with Hurler syndrome lack an enzyme that the body needs to digest sugar. As a result, undigested sugar molecules build up in the body, causing progressive damage to the brain, heart, and other organs.

There are no signs or symptoms of the condition at birth, although some have a soft out-pouching around the belly-button or lower abdomen. Those with severe MPS I generally begin to show other signs and symptoms of the disorder within the first year of life. There is no effective treatment and life expectancy for many of these children is only around ten years.

Dr. Gomez-Ospina will use the patient’s own blood stem cells that have been genetically edited to restore the missing enzyme. The goal of this preclinical program is to show the team can manufacture the needed cells, to complete safety studies and to apply to the US Food and Drug Administration for an Investigational New Drug (IND), the authorization needed to begin a clinical trial in people.

“The funding will pave the way for trials in people to realize a more effective therapy for this devastating disease,” Gomez-Ospina said. “We will also generate safety and toxicity data that could facilitate the application of our genome editing platform to other genetic disorders for which a significant unmet need still exists.”

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