While many neuroscientists believe that compounds to treatneurodegenerative diseases must be administered directly tothe brain -- either by injection or with the help of carriermolecules to transport them across the blood brain barrier --researchers at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. have found thatsubcutaneous injection may be sufficient for treatingperipheral nervous disorders.

Speaking at the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Society forNeuroscience in Anaheim, Calif., on Tuesday, GeorgeYancopoulos, Regeneron's (NASDAQ:REGN) vice president ofneurobiology, said that both brain-derived neurotrophic factor(BDNF) and ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) seem to havetherapeutic effects on peripheral neuropathies and motorneuron diseases in animal models when they are administeredsubcutaneously.

When nerves are injured, said Yancopoulos, the levels of theCNTF receptor produced in muscle tissue go up 100-fold.Apparently, there is also an appreciable increase in the numberof BDNF receptors in the periphery as well. A phenomenontermed retrograde transport ensures that either growth factorgets transported from nerve endings back to the nerve cellbody in the spinal cord. Thus, if either BDNF or CNTF areadministered subcutaneously, they should be transported tothe spine.

The Tarrytown, N.Y., company is already in human clinicaltrials with CNTF, Frederic Price, Regeneron's chief financialofficer, told BioWorld.

And Regeneron scientists have demonstrated in an animalmodel of peripheral neuropathy that subcutaneousadministration of BDNF prevents the loss of peripheral nervefunction. It protects the survival of dorsal root ganglia afterthey have been exposed to the neurotoxin capsaicin, Priceexplained.

"These data support the use of BDNF in the treatment ofneuropathies caused by diabetes and chemotherapy," saidRonald Lindsay, Regeneron's vice president of neurobiology.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

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