Knowledge Translation, Patents and Inventions
Scientific discovery is the first step towards understanding, treating and preventing neurodegenerative diseases, but Tanz scientists are also engaged in translating new knowledge into the actual tools and techniques that will one day diagnose and treat patients.
Scientists at the Tanz Centre are among the most prolific inventors at the University of Toronto, with several scientists placing among the Top Ten Inventors at the U of T (on the basis of disclosures in a given year).
With this in mind, scientists at the Tanz Centre have played key roles in the translation of several scientific discoveries into tools that can be applied for the creation of clinically-applicable diagnostics and therapeutic agents for neurodegenerative diseases.
- Vaccination of Mouse Models
In 2000, Tanz researchers showed that vaccination of mouse models of Alzheimer's disease with the amyloid-peptide resulted in either the prevention or the reversal of cognitive and memory impairments in mouse models of Alzheimer's disease. This discovery spurred the subsequent testing of the vaccine in humans. These human trials gave suggestive evidence of therapeutic effect, but were discontinued due to allergic reactions from the vaccine.
- Designing a Human Vaccine
Following the discontinuation of the amyloid-peptide vaccination trials in humans due to allergic encephalitis (brain inflammation), Tanz scientists determined which parts of the vaccine were responsible for the potential therapeutic effect, and which parts of the vaccine led to the allergic encephalitis.
As part of their discovery, Tanz researchers found that one part of the vaccine caused the beneficial effects, while the remainder of the peptide likely caused the inflammation and allergic encephalitis. This has led to the creation of new vaccines as well as the generation of antibodies to this part of the amyloid-peptide for passive transfer of the antibody by infusion into humans. Clinical trials of these revised vaccines are now underway by several pharmaceutical companies.
- Researching New Pharmaceutical Interventions
Scientists at the Tanz Centre had observed that Scyllo-inositol was capable of inhibiting the aggregation of the amyloid-peptide into toxic oligomers, which are thought to be important in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease.
The Tanz scientists then showed that Scyllo-inositol was capable of inhibiting the clinical and pathological features of Alzheimer's in several transgenic mouse models. Scyllo-inositol is now being investigated in human clinical trials by a pharmaceutical company.
- New Methods for Diagnosis
Several of the genes discovered by the Tanz Centre have been converted into clinical tests to identify individuals at risk for specific neurodegenerative diseases.
- A Link to Diabetes
Scientists at the Tanz Centre have also used the knowledge gained while investigating the effects of misfolded proteins on neurodegenerative disease to investigate the effects of misfolded proteins in certain forms of diabetes. Studies of small molecule inhibitors of the toxicity and aggregation of the islet-associated polypeptide are being explored as potential therapeutics for Type II diabetes.