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Rare disease represents one of the most significant issues facing the medical community and health care providers worldwide, yet the majority of these disorders never emerge from their obscurity, drawing little attention from the medical community or the pharmaceutical industry. The challenge therefore is how best to mobilize rare disease stakeholders to enhance basic, translational and clinical research to advance understanding of pathogenesis and accelerate therapy development. Here we describe a rare, fatal brain disorder known as Niemann-Pick type C (NPC) and an innovative research collaborative known as Support of Accelerated Research for NPC (SOAR-NPC) which illustrates one pathway through which knowledge of a rare disease and its possible treatments are being successfully advanced. Use of the "SOAR" mechanism, we believe, offers a blueprint for similar advancement for many other rare disorders.
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In 2010, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) established the Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases (TRND) program within the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), which was created to stimulate drug discovery and development for rare and neglected tropical diseases through a collaborative model between the NIH, academic scientists, nonprofit organizations, and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. This paper describes one of the first TRND programs, the development of 2-hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin (HP-β-CD) for the treatment of Niemann-Pick disease type C1 (NPC1). NPC is a neurodegenerative, autosomal recessive rare disease caused by a mutation in either the NPC1 (about 95% of cases) or the NPC2 gene (about 5% of cases). These mutations affect the intracellular trafficking of cholesterol and other lipids, which leads to a progressive accumulation of unesterified cholesterol and glycosphingolipids in the CNS and visceral organs. Affected individuals typically exhibit ataxia, swallowing problems, seizures, and progressive impairment of motor and intellectual function in early childhood, and usually die in adolescence. There is no disease modifying therapy currently approved for NPC1 in the US. A collaborative drug development program has been established between TRND, public and private partners that has completed the pre-clinical development of HP-β-CD through IND filing for the current Phase I clinical trial that is underway. Here we discuss how this collaborative effort helped to overcome scientific, clinical and financial challenges facing the development of new drug treatments for rare and neglected diseases, and how it will incentivize the commercialization of HP-β-CD for the benefit of the NPC patient community.
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Niemann-Pick disease, type C1 (NPC1) is a heritable lysosomal storage disease characterized by a progressive neurological degeneration that causes disability and premature death. A murine model of NPC1 disease (Npc1-/-) displays a rapidly progressing form of NPC1 disease which is characterized by weight loss, ataxia, increased cholesterol storage, loss of cerebellar Purkinje neurons and early lethality. To test the potential efficacy of gene therapy for NPC1, we constructed adeno-associated virus serotype 9 (AAV9) vectors to deliver the NPC1 gene under the transcriptional control of the neuronal-specific (CamKII) or a ubiquitous (EF1a) promoter. The Npc1-/- mice that received a single dose of AAV9-CamKII-NPC1 as neonates (2.6×1011GC) or at weaning (1.3×1012GC), and the mice that received a single dose of AAV9-EF1a-NPC1 at weaning (1.2×1012GC), exhibited an increased life span, characterized by delayed weight loss and diminished motor decline. Cholesterol storage and Purkinje neuron loss were also reduced in the central nervous system of AAV9 treated Npc1-/- mice. Treatment with AAV9-EF1a-NPC1, as compared to AAV9-CamKII-NPC1, resulted in significantly increased survival (mean survival increased from 69 days to >166 and 97 days, respectively) and growth, and reduced hepatic-cholesterol accumulation. Our results provide the first demonstration that gene therapy may represent a therapeutic option for NPC1 patients and suggest that extraneuronal NPC1 expression can further augment the lifespan of the Npc1-/- mice after systemic AAV gene delivery.
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Niemann-Pick type C1 (NPC) disease is a lysosomal storage disease caused by mutations in the NPC1 gene, leading to an increase in unesterified cholesterol and several sphingolipids, and resulting in hepatic disease and progressive neurological disease. We show that subcutaneous administration of the pharmaceutical excipient 2-hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin (HPβCD) to cats with NPC disease ameliorated hepatic disease, but doses sufficient to reduce neurological disease resulted in pulmonary toxicity. However, direct administration of HPβCD into the cisterna magna of presymptomatic cats with NPC disease prevented the onset of cerebellar dysfunction for greater than a year and resulted in a reduction in Purkinje cell loss and near-normal concentrations of cholesterol and sphingolipids. Moreover, administration of intracisternal HPβCD to NPC cats with ongoing cerebellar dysfunction slowed disease progression, increased survival time, and decreased the accumulation of brain gangliosides. An increase in hearing threshold was identified as a potential adverse effect. These studies in a feline animal model have provided critical data on efficacy and safety of drug administration directly into the central nervous system that will be important for advancing HPβCD into clinical trials.
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Niemann-Pick disease type C (NPC) is a fatal, neurodegenerative, cholesterol storage disorder. With new therapeutics in clinical trials, it is imperative to improve diagnostics and facilitate early intervention. We used metabolomic profiling to identify potential markers and discovered three unknown bile acids that were increased in plasma from NPC but not control subjects. The bile acids most elevated in the NPC subjects were identified as 3β,5α,6β-trihydroxycholanic acid and its glycine conjugate, which were shown to be metabolites of cholestane-3β,5α,6β-triol, an oxysterol elevated in NPC. A high-throughput mass spectrometry-based method was developed and validated to measure the glycine-conjugated bile acid in dried blood spots. Analysis of dried blood spots from 4992 controls, 134 NPC carriers, and 44 NPC subjects provided 100% sensitivity and specificity in the study samples. Quantification of the bile acid in dried blood spots, therefore, provides the basis for a newborn screen for NPC that is ready for piloting in newborn screening programs.
Niemann-Pick disease type C (NP-C) is a neurovisceral lysosomal cholesterol trafficking and lipid storage disorder caused by mutations in one of the two genes, NPC1 or NPC2. Diagnosis has often been a difficult task, due to the wide range in age of onset of NP-C and clinical presentation of the disease, combined with the complexity of the cell biology (filipin) laboratory testing, even in combination with genetic testing. This has led to substantial delays in diagnosis, largely depending on the access to specialist centres and the level of knowledge about NP-C of the physician in the area. In recent years, advances in mass spectrometry has allowed identification of several sensitive plasma biomarkers elevated in NP-C (e.g. cholestane-3β,5α,6β-triol, lysosphingomyelin isoforms and bile acid metabolites), which, together with the concomitant progress in molecular genetic technology, have greatly impacted the strategy of laboratory testing. Specificity of the biomarkers is currently under investigation and other pathologies are being found to also result in elevations. Molecular genetic testing also has its limitations, notably with unidentified mutations and the classification of new variants. This review is intended to increase awareness on the currently available approaches to laboratory diagnosis of NP-C, to provide an up to date, comprehensive and critical evaluation of the various techniques (cell biology, biochemical biomarkers and molecular genetics), and to briefly discuss ongoing/future developments. The use of current tests in proper combination enables a rapid and correct diagnosis in a large majority of cases. However, even with recent progress, definitive diagnosis remains challenging in some patients, for whom combined genetic/biochemical/cytochemical markers do not provide a clear answer. Expertise and reference laboratories thus remain essential, and further work is still required to fulfill unmet needs.
Niemann-Pick type C (NPC) 1 disease is a rare, inherited, neurodegenerative disease. Clear evidence of the therapeutic efficacy of 2-hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin (HPβCD) in animal models resulted in the initiation of a phase I/IIa clinical trial in 2013 and a phase IIb/III trial in 2015. With clinical trials ongoing, validation of a biomarker to track disease progression and serve as a supporting outcome measure of therapeutic efficacy has become compulsory. In this study, we evaluated calcium-binding protein calbindin D-28K (calbindin) concentrations in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) as a biomarker of NPC1 disease. In the naturally occurring feline model, CSF calbindin was significantly elevated at 3 weeks of age, prior to the onset of cerebellar dysfunction, and steadily increased to >10-fold over normal at end-stage disease. Biweekly intrathecal administration of HPβCD initiated prior to the onset of neurologic dysfunction completely normalized CSF calbindin in NPC1 cats at all time points analyzed when followed up to 78 weeks of age. Initiation of HPβCD after the onset of clinical signs (16 weeks of age) resulted in a delayed reduction of calbindin levels in the CSF. Evaluation of CSF from patients with NPC1 revealed that calbindin concentrations were significantly elevated compared with CSF samples collected from unaffected patients. Off-label treatment of patients with NPC1 with miglustat, an inhibitor of glycosphingolipid biosynthesis, significantly decreased CSF calbindin compared with pretreatment concentrations. These data suggest that the CSF calbindin concentration is a sensitive biomarker of NPC1 disease that could be instrumental as an outcome measure of therapeutic efficacy in ongoing clinical trials.
Niemann-Pick Type C1 (NPC1) disease is a rare neurovisceral, cholesterol-sphingolipid lysosomal storage disorder characterized by ataxia, motor impairment, progressive intellectual decline, and dementia. The most prevalent mutation, NPC1(I1061T), encodes a misfolded protein with a reduced half-life caused by ER-associated degradation. Therapies directed at stabilization of the mutant NPC1 protein reduce cholesterol storage in fibroblasts but have not been tested in vivo because of lack of a suitable animal model. Whereas the prominent features of human NPC1 disease are replicated in the null Npc1(-/-) mouse, this model is not amenable to examining proteostatic therapies. The objective of the present study was to develop an NPC1 I1061T knock-in mouse in which to test proteostatic therapies. Compared with the Npc1(-/-) mouse, this Npc1(tm(I1061T)Dso) model displays a less severe, delayed form of NPC1 disease with respect to weight loss, decreased motor coordination, Purkinje cell death, lipid storage, and premature death. The murine NPC1(I1061T) protein has a reduced half-life in vivo, consistent with protein misfolding and rapid ER-associated degradation, and can be stabilized by histone deacetylase inhibition. This novel mouse model faithfully recapitulates human NPC1 disease and provides a powerful tool for preclinical evaluation of therapies targeting NPC1 protein variants with compromised stability.
Lysosomal storage diseases result from inherited deficiencies of lysosomal hydrolytic activities or lipid transport. Collectively, these disorders are a common cause of morbidity in the pediatric population and are often associated with severe neurodegeneration. Among this group of diseases is Niemann-Pick type C, an autosomal recessive disorder of lipid trafficking that causes cognitive impairment, ataxia and death, most often in childhood. Here, we review the current knowledge of disease pathogenesis, with particular focus on insights gleaned from genetics and the study of model systems. Critical advances in understanding mechanisms that regulate intracellular cholesterol trafficking have emerged from this work and are highlighted. We review effects of disease-causing mutations on quality control pathways involving the lysosome and endoplasmic reticulum, and discuss how they function to clear the most common mutant protein found in Niemann-Pick type C patients, NPC1-I1061T. Finally, we summarize insights into the mechanisms that degrade misfolded transmembrane proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum and how manipulating these quality control pathways may lead to the identification of novel targets for disease-modifying therapies. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled SI:Autophagy.
Niemann-Pick C1 protein (NPC1) is a late-endosomal membrane protein involved in trafficking of LDL-derived cholesterol, Niemann-Pick disease type C, and Ebola virus infection. NPC1 contains 13 transmembrane segments (TMs), five of which are thought to represent a "sterol-sensing domain" (SSD). Although present also in other key regulatory proteins of cholesterol biosynthesis, uptake, and signaling, the structure and mechanism of action of the SSD are unknown. Here we report a crystal structure of a large fragment of human NPC1 at 3.6 Å resolution, which reveals internal twofold pseudosymmetry along TM 2-13 and two structurally homologous domains that protrude 60 Å into the endosomal lumen. Strikingly, NPC1's SSD forms a cavity that is accessible from both the luminal bilayer leaflet and the endosomal lumen; computational modeling suggests that this cavity is large enough to accommodate one cholesterol molecule. We propose a model for NPC1 function in cholesterol sensing and transport.
Niemann-Pick type C (NPC) disease is a multisystem disorder caused primarily by a mutation in the npc1 gene. These studies evaluated the effect of genetic background, deletion of additional genes, and administration of several agents on the age at death in a murine model of this disorder. Such factors as differing strain background or genetic drift within a given background in the npc1(-/-) mouse significantly altered the age at death and the degree of organ disease. Genetic deletion of Siat9 (GM3 synthetase) or Nr1h2 [liver X receptor (LXR)beta] shortened the life of the npc1(-/-) animals. Daily treatment of the npc1(-/-) mice with an LXR agonist or administration of a single dose of cyclodextrin, with or without the neurosteroid allopregnanolone, significantly slowed neurodegeneration and increased the lifespan of these animals. These data illustrate that the age at death of the npc1(-/-) mouse can be significantly influenced by many factors, including differences in strain background, other inactivating gene mutations (Siat9 and lxrbeta), and administration of agents such as LXR agonists and, particularly, cyclodextrin. It is currently not clear which of these effects is nonspecific or which might relate directly to the molecular defect present in the NPC1 syndrome.
Niemann-Pick type C (NPC) disease is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder caused most commonly by a defect in the NPC1 protein and characterized by widespread intracellular accumulation of unesterified cholesterol and glycosphingolipids (GSLs). While current treatment therapies are limited, a few drugs tested in Npc1(-/-) mice have shown partial benefit. During a combination treatment trial using two such compounds, N-butyldeoxynojirimycin (NB-DNJ) and allopregnanolone, we noted increased lifespan for Npc1(-/-) mice receiving only 2-hydroxypropyl-beta-cyclodextrin (CD), the vehicle for allopregnanolone. This finding suggested that administration of CD alone, but with greater frequency, might provide additional benefit.
Administration of CD to Npc1(-/-) mice beginning at either P7 or P21 and continuing every other day delayed clinical onset, reduced intraneuronal cholesterol and GSL storage as well as free sphingosine accumulation, reduced markers of neurodegeneration, and led to longer survival than any previous treatment regime. We reasoned that other lysosomal diseases characterized by cholesterol and GSL accumulation, including NPC disease due to NPC2 deficiency, GM1 gangliosidosis and mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS) type IIIA, might likewise benefit from CD treatment. Treated Npc2(-/-) mice showed benefits similar to NPC1 disease, however, mice with GM1 gangliosidosis or MPS IIIA failed to show reduction in storage.
Treatment with CD delayed clinical disease onset, reduced intraneuronal storage and secondary markers of neurodegeneration, and significantly increased lifespan of both Npc1(-/-) and Npc2(-/-) mice. In contrast, CD failed to ameliorate cholesterol or glycosphingolipid storage in GM1 gangliosidosis and MPS IIIA disease. Understanding the mechanism(s) by which CD leads to reduced neuronal storage may provide important new opportunities for treatment of NPC and related neurodegenerative diseases characterized by cholesterol dyshomeostasis.
Tiger and John are NPC1 heterozygote cats. Upon retirement from status as breeder males, both cats were adopted from the Niemann-Pick C feline colony by a member of the NPC community.