A Breath of Fresh Air for Biotechs Working on Cystic Fibrosis Therapies

Researchers from the University of Zurich have determined the structure of a chloride channel, which could be a target for new drugs to treat cystic fibrosis.

Researchers at the University of Zurich have found a new target for future cystic fibrosis treatments. The study, published in Nature, has uncovered the structure of a protein that could help to correct the mechanism underlying the buildup of sticky mucus in patients’ lungs. This could give rise to a new wave of therapeutics for the condition, which at the moment lacks disease-modifying treatments.

Cystic fibrosis is a severe genetic disease affecting the lungs, for which there is currently no cure. It is caused by a malfunctioning chloride channel, CFTR, which prevents the secretion of chloride by cells, leading to the production of thick, sticky mucus in the lung. The condition affects around 70,000 people worldwide, who suffer from chronic infections and require daily physiotherapy.

However, one potential approach to treat cystic fibrosis is to activate the calcium-activated chloride channel, TMEM16A, as an alternative route for chloride efflux. As TMEM16A is located within the same epithelium as CFTR, its activation could rehydrate the mucus layer. The research group used cryo-electron microscopy to decipher the structure of TMEM16A, which is part of a protein family that facilitates the flow of negatively charged ions or lipids across the cell membrane.

The changes that occur in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients.

TMEM16A is found in many of our organs, playing a key role in muscle contraction and pain perception, as well as in the lungs. It forms an hourglass-shaped protein-enclosed channel, which when bound by positively charged calcium ions, opens to let chloride ions to pass through the membrane.

Current treatments for cystic fibrosis include bronchodilators, mucus thinners, antibiotics, and physiotherapy, which only control symptoms. However, biotechs around Europe are beginning to make progress, with ProQR completing a Phase Ib trial and Galapagos and Abbvie’s triple combination therapy entering Phase I. Antabio has also received €7.6M from CARB-X to develop a new antibiotic against Pseudomonas infections.

The identification of a new target provides patients and biotechs alike with renewed hope of new and effective cystic fibrosis treatments, or even a cure. It will be interesting to see whether small molecules or gene therapy specialists could take advantage of this information.

Original article: https://labiotech.eu/cystic-fibrosis-treatment-target/

College and CF – Spring 2018 Scholarship Recipient Guest Blog

By: Holly Beasley

Approaching college while living with Cystic Fibrosis can be undoubtedly frightening. Although, great challenges bring great rewards. This is what I have come to learn during my time at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While I am only a sophomore at the university currently, I hope the knowledge I have gathered through my journey thus far will serve to touch others with CF.

I believe that living with Cystic Fibrosis requires honesty with yourself and others. Therefore, I must be completely honest with you regarding the college experience while living with CF. I do not aim to discourage but to instead challenge you to prevail. I think a unique strength was placed within all of us with Cystic Fibrosis to surmount any challenge that presents itself in our lives. One of these being college, if you so choose.

College with Cystic Fibrosis will certainly not always be easy. As you may know, sick days, lengthy therapy routines, and hospitalizations come with the territory. Combine all of this with the pursuit of higher education and one can become overwhelmed. Balance and prioritization become key in the life of a college student with CF. I know I have spent countless nights reading my textbook while my Vest was simultaneously shaking my lungs. There have also been times when I completed assignments while lying in my hospital bed. This is where balance comes in to play. Finding a system that makes time for both school and health care is crucial, but I want you to be certain that it is also achievable. Despite some extra setbacks and effort, I finished reading all of those pages in my textbook and an assignment has yet to be turned in late. Now, this is where prioritization becomes a major factor. In order to be an efficient student, your health must come first. If doing both becomes too taxing on your body, please remember that it is ok to give yourself a break from school. This has been a difficult lesson for me to learn as a student who always strives for perfect grades. The times I have put school before my health, it has never worked in my favor. I only became sicker, causing a worse impact on my academic performance than if I would have taken the time to recover initially. Carving an hour or so out of my day for therapy when I first noticed signs of sickness would have been much easier than the eventual hospitalizations that resulted from the neglect of this fact. Always put your health first. The aspirations you are seeking through your college journey can only become a reality if you are alive and well to participate in these realized dreams.

All of this may seem rather challenging. So how does all of this ultimately become rewarding? Well, that is entirely up to you. I’d like to give some insight on how this process has rewarded me, personally. This might be the same reasoning that inspires you to pursue higher education or you might have a unique drive that motivates you. Either way, hone in on this sense of why it is all worth it.

Each day attending college rewards me because it serves as a constant reminder that I am equally as capable as anyone without Cystic Fibrosis. We are all different and many of us have encountered at least some degree of a setback in our lives. Mine just happens to be Cystic Fibrosis, but I can work with this along-side my peers. One classmate may have had a parent pass away, another battled a different disease or any other challenge that life may present. Yet, we can all come together in one classroom in order to learn and grow as equals. College allows me to reflect on the fact that the circumstances life presented me with do not define me as lesser. Instead, they exist to strengthen me so that I may become more. Life with Cystic Fibrosis has not been easy and this has never been truer than in my time at college. As I sit here now, I can still honestly say that I am happy to have Cystic Fibrosis. We are forced to realize how special we truly are when challenged by this disease. Yes, I have experienced setbacks and hard times while in college. They have not defeated me and they will not defeat you. At times, I may have to exert extra effort because of my CF. The reward of knowing that I got the job done regardless is much greater than any challenge that college or Cystic Fibrosis may introduce.

Cancer gene plays key role in cystic fibrosis lung infections

PTEN is best known as a tumor suppressor, a type of protein that protects cells from growing uncontrollably and becoming cancerous. But according to a new study from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), PTEN has a second, previously unknown talent: working with another protein, CFTR, it also keeps lung tissue free and clear of potentially dangerous infections.

The findings, published in Immunity, explain why people with cystic  are particularly prone to respiratory infections—and suggest a new approach to treatment.

A quarter-century ago, researchers discovered that cystic fibrosis is caused by mutations in the CFTR gene, which makes an eponymous protein that transports chloride ions in and out of the cell. Without ion transport, mucus in the lung becomes thicker and stickier and traps bacteria—especially Pseudomonas—in the lung. The trapped bacteria exacerbate the body’s inflammatory response, leading to persistent, debilitating infections.

But newer research suggests CFTR mutations also encourage infections through a completely different manner.

“Recent findings suggested that  with CFTR mutations have a weaker response to bacteria, reducing their ability to clear infections and augmenting inflammation,” said lead author Sebastián A. Riquelme, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at CUMC. “This was interesting because it pointed to a parallel deregulated immune mechanism that contributes to airway destruction, beyond CFTR’s effect on mucus.”

That’s where PTEN comes into play. “We had no idea that PTEN was involved in cystic fibrosis,” said study leader Alice Prince, MD, professor of pediatrics (in pharmacology). “We were studying mice that lack a form of PTEN and noticed that they had a severe inflammatory response to Pseudomonas and diminished clearance that looked a lot like what we see in patients with cystic fibrosis.”

Delving deeper, the CUMC team discovered that when PTEN is located on the surface of lung and immune cells, it helps clear Pseudomonas bacteria and keeps the inflammatory response in check. But PTEN can do this only when it’s attached to CFTR.

And in most cases of cystic fibrosis, little CFTR finds it way to the cell surface. As a result, the duo fail to connect, and Pseudomonas run wild.

As it happens, the latest generation of cystic fibrosis drugs push mutated CFTR to the cell surface, with the aim of improving chloride channel function and reducing a buildup of mucus. The new findings suggest that it might be beneficial to coax nonfunctional CFTR to the surface as well, since even abnormal CFTR can work with PTEN to fight infections, according to the researchers.

“Another idea is to find drugs that improve PTEN membrane anti-inflammatory activity directly,” said Dr. Riquelme. “There are several PTEN promotors under investigation as cancer treatments that might prove useful in cystic fibrosis.”

The study also raises the possibility that PTEN might have something to do with the increased risk of gastrointestinal cancer in . “With better clinical care, these patients are living much longer, and we’re seeing a rise in gastrointestinal cancers,” said Dr. Prince. “Some studies suggest that CFTR may be a tumor suppressor. Our work offers an alternative hypothesis, where CFTR mutations and lack of its partner, PTEN, might be driving this cancer in patients with .”

The paper is titled, “Cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator attaches tumor suppressor PTEN to the membrane and promotes anti Pseudomonas aeruginosa immunity.”

For journal article click here:

http://www.cell.com/immunity/fulltext/S1074-7613(17)30487-9

Congratulations to Our Scholarship Winners!

The US Adult CF Association (USACFA) is excited to announce our recipients of the Lauren Melissa Kelly Scholarship for the Spring of 2018.

In our evaluation, we look for students who demonstrate tremendous academic achievement, community involvement and a powerful understanding of how having CF matched with these achievements places them in a unique situation to gain leadership roles within the community. Our scholarship is open to all pursuing any degree, from associates to Ph.Ds. We believe that any higher education is a strong foundation for advocacy and involvement in CF.

We are pleased to announce Hannah Buck and Mary Grace Bernard as the recipients of this semesters’ scholarship. Congratulations to them! They will be awarded $2500 each.

Both of our recipients demonstrated the leadership, intelligence, and drive of Lauren Melissa Kelly. We at USACFA look forward to seeing them further develop their leadership and advocacy in the cystic fibrosis community.

We are also pleased to award runner-up scholarships in the amount of $250 to five deserving applicants: Elizabeth Shea, Chloe Creager, Rebekah Weigner, Holly Beasley and Christopher Davis, Jr.

We are excited to announce more scholarship opportunities coming soon! Please stay tuned for more information. For questions, please contact us at scholarship@usacfa.org.

Apply for the chance of a $10,000 scholarship!

The Sacks for CF Scholarship is related to quarterback sacks made during the NFL season. The undergraduate and graduate award is made annually to 30 people who strive for therapy adherence and academic success.

Continue reading Apply for the chance of a $10,000 scholarship!

Deadline to Enroll in a 2018 Marketplace Plan Ends Friday December 15th!!

The deadline to enroll in a 2018 Marketplace health insurance plan is Friday, December 15, 2017.  A person can visit www.HealthCare.gov to create an account and review options for coverage.  Then the person can apply for coverage for  2018.  All plans on the government Marketplace offer essential benefits, such as emergency room visits and prescription drug coverage, as well as preventive care including shots and screenings.  The plans offered are run by private insurance companies.  Many states have a variety of plans available.
Some people in the CF community think that the Affordable Care Act has been repealed.  This NOT true.  The Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land.
This means that some people with CF may be eligible for premium help when purchasing a policy on the Marketplace.  The household income cut off is much higher than the cut off for Medicaid which means many people with CF may be eligible for help paying their premiums if their plan is purchased through the Marketplace.
 Some states run their own Marketplaces.  When a person goes to www.Healthcare.gov the site will link them to their state marketplace if the state has their own marketplace.
In some cases the premium help that is available is higher than the help that has been available in prior years.
The only way to enroll in a health plan through the Marketplace after December 15, 2017 is if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.  A person qualifies for a Special Enrollment Period if the person has certain life events occur such as losing health coverage, moving, having a change in income, getting married or having a change in family size.
If a person with CF is without health insurance coverage or wants to see if a better more affordable option is available then he or she should go to www.Healthcare.gov to see what is available before time runs out.

Trial to Possibly Treat Nonesense Mutations Begins

Sevion Therapeutics and Eloxx Pharmaceuticals announced that a first healthy subject has been dosed in a Phase 1b clinical trial assessing the safety, tolerability and drug properties of ELX-02 as a potential treatment of several genetic diseases caused by nonsense mutations, including cystic fibrosis (CF).

Continue reading Trial to Possibly Treat Nonesense Mutations Begins

Cystic Fibrosis Wind Sprint 65: Exercising Outdoors Post-Transplant

As all post-transplant patients know, exercising outdoors can be a daunting task because of the danger of too much sun exposure. To solve this issue, Jerry wears lots of sunscreen, a sun-blocking hat, and often works out using a medicine ball somewhere in the shade. Working with a weighted medicine ball gives him the flexibility (literally!) to move his workouts out of direct sunlight and into the shade when necessary, allowing him to enjoy a beautiful day outside while protecting his skin from any harm. As Jerry likes to say… no excuses! Get outside and exercise to live, breathe, and succeed with cystic fibrosis!

Continue reading Cystic Fibrosis Wind Sprint 65: Exercising Outdoors Post-Transplant

USACFA Annouced by CF Foundation as a Recipient of 2017 Impact Grant

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has announced the recipients of its second annual Impact Grants. The Impact Grants Program provides funding to unique projects by and for people with cystic fibrosis (CF) and their family members. CF is a rare, genetic disease that progressively limits the ability to breathe and ultimately causes premature death.

Continue reading USACFA Annouced by CF Foundation as a Recipient of 2017 Impact Grant

Newly Discovered CF Mutations Could Be Why Some People with CF are Living Longer

Researchers hypothesize that the newly-discovered mutations help re-hydrate the airways, discouraging bacterial build-up in the lungs.

Despite a narrow average lifespan, there is a big range in how severely cystic fibrosis (CF) affects the lungs and other organs depending on an individual’s specific genetic variation, and even in how long patients sharing the same, most common genetic mutation are able to survive with CF.

This led researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital to wonder if other genetic mutations could be protective against CF’s effects. Recent findings published in the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology suggest that may be the case.

“There are some patients at one end of extreme severity who need a lung transplant very early in life, then others whose clinical presentation seems to stabilize so that they can live into the fifth and sixth decades of life,” says Pankaj Agrawal, MBBS, MMSc, principal investigator and medical director of The Manton Center’s Gene Discovery Core at Boston Children’s, who was the co-first author on the study.

To find out why, Agrawal and researchers at Boston Children’s — including Ruobing Wang, MD, a pulmonologist, and Craig Gerard, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Respiratory Diseases — conducted the first-ever longitudinal analysis of genetic modifiers related to CF.

They combed through a population of nearly 600 CF patients registered at the Boston Children’s Cystic Fibrosis Center and found five individuals who stood out because of their advanced age — in their 50s or 60s — and relatively normal lung function.

“Given the large size of our center’s patient population, we were able to find a number of individuals at this rare ‘extreme,'” says Wang, who was co-first author on the paper.

A new hypothesis for mitigating cystic fibrosis

To discover the genetic variants, the researchers collected blood from these patients and performed whole exome sequencing on their DNA, analyzing the “coding” section of the genome that is responsible for most disease-related mutations.

Sequencing the genes of these five Boston Children’s patients — a cohort known as “long-term non-progressors” — the researchers found a set of rare and never-before-discovered genetic variants that might help explain their longevity and stable lung function.

The gene variants are related to so-called epithelial sodium channels (ENaCs), semi-permeable cellular pathways responsible for reabsorbing sodium in the kidney, colon, lung and sweat glands.

“Our hypothesis is that these ENaC mutations help to rehydrate the airways of CF patients, making it less likely for detrimental bacteria to take up residence in the lungs,” says Wang.

The discovery brings ENaCs into the limelight as a potential new therapeutic target.

“For example, if we could target ENaCs with a small molecule or an antibody-based drug, we might be able to incur a protective effect against CF’s progression,” says Agrawal, who is also a physician in the Boston Children’s Division of Newborn Medicine.

Based on their findings, the team is now doing further studies to analyze the genetics of patients at the other end of the CF spectrum — those with extremely severe clinical presentation of symptoms at a young age.

Story Source:

Boston Children’s Hospital. “Some people with cystic fibrosis might live longer because of genetic mutations: Researchers hypothesize that the newly-discovered mutations help re-hydrate the airways, discouraging bacterial build-up in the lungs.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 October 2017. <https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171025150620.htm>.

Materials provided by Boston Children’s HospitalNote: Content may be edited for style and length.