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Title:  Morphogen-induced nerve regeneration and repair
United States Patent: 
7,557,078
Issued: 
July 7, 2009

Inventors:
 Rueger; David C. (Hopkinton, MA), Kuberasampath; Thangavel (Medway, MA), Oppermann; Hermann (Medway, MA), Ozkaynak; Engin (Milford, MA), Pang; Roy H. L. (Etna, NH), Cohen; Charles M. (Medway, MA)
Assignee:
  Stryker Corporation (Kalamazoo, MI)
Appl. No.:
 08/937,756
Filed:
 September 25, 1997


 

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Abstract

Disclosed are therapeutic treatment methods, compositions and devices for maintaining neural pathways in a mammal, including enhancing survival of neurons at risk of dying, inducing cellular repair of damaged neurons and neural pathways, and stimulating neurons to maintain their differentiated phenotype. In one embodiment, the invention provides means for stimulating CAM expression in neurons. The invention also provides means for evaluating the status of nerve tissue, including means for detecting and monitoring neuropathies in a mammal. The methods, devices and compositions include a morphogen or morphogen-stimulating agent provided to the mammal in a therapeutically effective concentration.

Description of the Invention

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides methods and compositions for maintaining neural pathways in a mammal in vivo, including methods for enhancing the survival of neural cells.

In one aspect, the invention features compositions and therapeutic treatment methods that comprise the step of administering to a mammal a therapeutically effective amount of a morphogenic protein ("morphogen"), as defined herein, upon injury to a neural pathway, or in anticipation of such injury, for a time and at a concentration sufficient to maintain the neural pathway, including repairing damaged pathways, or inhibiting additional damage thereto.

In another aspect, the invention features compositions and therapeutic treatment methods for maintaining neural pathways in a mammal in vivo which include administering to the mammal, upon injury to a neural pathway or in anticipation of such injury, a compound that stimulates in vivo a therapeutically effective concentration of an endogenous morphogen within the body of the mammal sufficient to maintain the neural pathway, including repairing damaged pathways or inhibiting additional damage thereto. These compounds are referred to herein as morphogen-stimulating agents, and are understood to include substances which, when administered to a mammal, act on tissue(s) or organ(s) that normally are responsible for, or capable of, producing a morphogen and/or secreting a morphogen, and which cause the endogenous level of the morphogen to be altered. The agent may act, for example, by stimulating expression and/or secretion of an endogenous morphogen.

In particular, the invention provides methods for enhancing the survival of neurons at risk of dying, including protecting neurons from the tissue destructive effects associated with the body's immune/inflammatory response to a nerve injury. The invention also provides methods for stimulating neurons to maintain their differentiated phenotype, including inducing the redifferentiation of transformed cells of neuronal origin to a morphology characteristic of untransformed neurons. In one embodiment, the invention provides means for stimulating production of cell adhesion molecules in cells, particularly nerve cell adhesion molecules (N-CAM) in neurons. The invention also provides methods, compositions and devices for stimulating cellular repair of damaged neurons and neural pathways, including regenerating damaged axons of the peripheral and central nervous systems. In addition, the invention also provides means for evaluating the status of nerve tissue, and for detecting and monitoring neuropathies in a mammal by monitoring fluctuations in the morphogen levels or endogenous morphogen antibody levels present in a mammal's serum or cerebrospinal fluid.

As used herein, a "neural pathway" describes a nerve circuit for the passage of electric signals from a source to a target cell site. The pathway includes the neurons through which the electric impulse is transported, including groups of interconnecting neurons, the nerve fibers formed by bundled neuronal axons, and the glial cells surrounding and associated with the neurons.

In one aspect of the invention, the morphogens described herein are useful in repairing damaged neural pathways of the peripheral nervous system. In particular, the morphogens are useful for repairing damaged pathways, including transected or otherwise damaged nerve fibers (nerves) requiring regeneration of neuronal processes, particularly axons, over extended distances to bridge a gap in the nerve itself, or between the nerve and a post-synaptic cell. Specifically, the morphogens described herein are capable of stimulating complete axonal nerve regeneration, including vascularization and reformation of the protective myelin sheath. The morphogen preferably is provided to the site of injury dispersed in a biocompatible, bioresorbable carrier material capable of maintaining the morphogen at the site and, where necessary, means for directing axonal growth from the proximal to the distal ends of a severed neuron or nerve. For example, means for directing axonal growth may be required where nerve regeneration is to be induced over an extended distance, such as greater than 10 mm. Many carriers capable of providing these functions are envisioned. For example, useful carriers include substantially insoluble materials or viscous solutions prepared as disclosed herein comprising laminin, hyaluronic acid or collagen, or other suitable synthetic, biocompatible polymeric materials such as polylactic, polyglycolic or polybutyric acids and/or copolymers thereof. The currently preferred carrier comprises an extracellular matrix composition, such as one described herein derived, for example, from mouse sarcoma cells. Also envisioned as especially useful are brain tissue-derived extracellular matrices.

In a particularly preferred embodiment, the morphogen is provided to the site as part of a device wherein the morphogen is disposed in a nerve guidance channel which spans the distance of the damaged pathway. The channel acts both as a protective covering and a physical means for guiding growth of a neuronal process such as an axon. Useful channels comprise a biocompatible membrane or casing, which may be tubular in structure, having a dimension sufficient to span the gap or break in the nerve to be repaired, and having openings adapted to receive severed nerve ends. The casing or membrane may be made of any biocompatible, nonirritating material, such as silicone or a biocompatible polymer such as polyethylene or polyethylene vinyl acetate. The casing also may be composed of biocompatible, bioresorbable polymers, including, for example, collagen, hyaluronic acid, polylactic, polybutyric and polyglycolic acids. In a currently preferred embodiment, the outer surface of the channel is substantially impermeable.

The morphogen may be disposed in the channel in association with a biocompatible carrier material, or it may be adsorbed to or otherwise associated with the inner surface of the casing, such as is described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,011,486, provided that the morphogen is accessible to the severed nerve ends. Additionally, although the nerve guidance channels described herein generally are tubular in shape, it should be evident to those skilled in the art that various alternative shapes may be employed. The lumen of the guidance channels may, for example, be oval or even square in cross section. Moreover the guidance channels may be constructed of two or more parts which may be clamped together to secure the nerve stumps. Nerve endings may be secured to the nerve guidance channels by means of sutures, biocompatible adhesives such as fibrin glue, or other means known in the medical art.

The morphogens described herein also are envisioned to be useful in autologous peripheral nerve segment implants to bypass damaged neural pathways in the central nervous system, such as in the repair of damaged or detached retinas, or other damage to the optic nerve. Here the morphogen is provided to the site of attachment to stimulate axonal growth at the graft site, particularly where the damaged axonal segment to be bypassed occurs far from the neuronal cell body.

The morphogens described herein also are useful for enhancing survival of neuronal cells at risk of dying, thereby preventing, limiting or otherwise inhibiting damage to neural pathways. Non-mitotic neurons are at risk of dying as a result of a neuropathy or other cellular dysfunction of a neuron or glial cell inducing cell death, or following a chemical or mechanical lesion to the cell or its surrounding tissue. The chemical lesions may result from known toxic agents, including lead, ethanol, ammonia, formaldehyde and many other organic solvents, as well as the toxins in cigarette smoke and opiates. Excitatory amino acids, such as glutamate also may play a role in the pathogenesis of neuronal cell death (see Freese et al. (1990) Brain Res. 521:254-264). Neuronal cell death also is thought to be a significant contributing factor in a number of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's chorea, and Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and multiple sclerosis. The etiology of these neuropathies may be metabolic, as results in hepatic encephalopathy, infectious, toxic, autoimmune, nutritional or ischemic. In addition, ethanol and a number of other toxins also have been identified as significant contributing factors in neurodegenerative diseases. The morphogens described herein may be provided to cells at risk of dying to enhance their survival and thereby protect the integrity of the neural pathway. The morphogens may be provided directly to the site, or they may be provided systemically. Alternatively, as described above, an agent capable of stimulating endogenous morphogen expression and/or secretion, preferably in cells associated with the nerve tissue of interest, may be administered to the mammal.

In another aspect of the invention, the method disclosed is useful for redifferentiating transformed cells, particularly transformed cells of neuronal or glial origin, such that the morphogen-treated cells are induced to display a morphology characteristic of untransformed cells. Where the transformed cells are cells of neuronal origin, morphogen treatment preferably induces cell rounding and cell aggregation (clumping), cell-cell adhesion, neurite outgrowth formation and elongation, and N-CAM production. The methods described herein are anticipated to substantially inhibit or reduce neural cell tumor formation and/or proliferation in nerve tissue. It is anticipated that the methods of this invention will be useful in substantially reducing the effects of various carcinomas of nerve tissue origin such as retinoblastomas, neuroblastomas, and gliomas or glioblastomas. In addition, the method also is anticipated to aid in inhibiting neoplastic lesions caused by metastatic tissue. Metastatic tumors are one of the most common neoplasms of the CNS, as they can reach the intracranial compartment through the bloodstream. Metastatic tumors may damage neural pathways for example, by distorting normal nerve tissue structure, compressing nerves, blocking flow of cerebrospinal fluid or the blood supply nourishing brain tissue, and/or by stimulating the body's immune response.

In another aspect of the invention, the morphogens described herein are useful for providing neuroprotective effects to alleviate neural pathway damage associated with the body's immune/inflammatory response to an initial injury to nerve tissue. Such a response may follow trauma to nerve tissue, caused, for example, by an autoimmune dysfunction, neoplastic lesion, infection, chemical or mechanical trauma, disease, by interruption of blood flow to the neurons or glial cells, for example following ischemia or hypoxia, or by other trauma to the nerve or surrounding material. For example, the primary damage resulting from hypoxia or ischemia-reperfusion following occlusion of a neural blood supply, as in an embolic stroke, is believed to be immunologically associated. In addition, at least part of the damage associated with a number of primary brain tumors also appears to be immunologically related. Application of the morphogen directly to the cells to be treated, or providing the morphogen to the mammal systemically, for example, intravenously or indirectly by oral administration, may be used to alleviate and/or inhibit the immunologically related response to a neural injury. Alternatively, administration of an agent capable of stimulating morphogen expression and/or secretion in vivo, preferably at the site of injury, also may be used. Where the injury is to be induced, as during surgery or other aggressive clinical treatment, the morphogen or agent may be provided prior to induction of the injury to provide a neuroprotective effect to the nerve tissue at risk.

In still another aspect, the invention described herein provides methods for supporting the growth and maintenance of differentiated neurons, including inducing neurons to continue expressing their phenotype. It is anticipated that this activity will be particularly useful in the treatment of nerve tissue disorders where loss of function is caused by reduced or lost cellular metabolic function and cells become senescent or quiescent, such as is thought to occur in aging cells and to be manifested in Alzheimer's disease. Application of the morphogen directly to cells to be treated, or providing it systemically by parenteral or oral administration stimulates these cells to continue expressing their phenotype, significantly inhibiting and/or reversing the effects of the cellular metabolic dysfunction, thereby maintaining the neural pathway at risk. Alternatively, administration of an agent capable of stimulating endogenous morphogen expression and/or secretion in vivo may be used.

In still another aspect, the invention provides methods for stimulating CAM expression levels in a cell, particularly N-CAM expression in neurons. CAMs are molecules defined as carrying out cell-cell interactions necessary for tissue formation. CAMs are believed to play a fundamental regulatory role in tissue development, including tissue boundary formation, embryonic induction and migration, and tissue stabilization and regeneration. Altered CAM levels have been implicated in a number of tissue disorders, including congenital defects, neoplasias, and degenerative diseases.

In particular, N-CAM expression is associated with normal neuronal cell development and differentiation, including retinal formation, synaptogenesis, and nerve-muscle tissue adhesion. Inhibition of one or more of the N-CAM isoforms is known to prevent proper tissue development. Altered N-CAM expression levels also are associated with neoplasias, including neuroblastomas (see infra), as well as with a number of neuropathies, including normal pressure hydrocephalous and type II schizophrenia. Application of the morphogen directly to the cells to be treated, or providing the morphogen to the mammal systemically, for example, parenterally, or indirectly by oral administration, may be used to induce cellular expression of one or more CAMs, particularly N-CAMs. Alternatively, administration of an agent capable of stimulating morphogen expression and/or secretion in vivo, preferably at the site of injury, also may be used to induce CAM production.

CAMs also have been postulated as part of a morphoregulatory pathway whose activity is induced by a to date unidentified molecule (See, for example, Edelman, G. M. (1986) Ann. Rev. Cell Biol. 2:81-116). Without being limited to any given theory, the morphogens described herein may act as the inducer of this pathway.

Finally, modulations of endogenous morphogen levels may be monitored as part of a method of detecting nerve tissue dysfunction. Specifically, modulations in endogenous morphogen levels are anticipated to reflect changes in nerve tissue status. Morphogen expression may be monitored directly in biopsied cell samples, in cerebrospinal fluid, or serum. Alternatively, morphogen levels may be assessed by detecting changes in the levels of endogenous antibodies to the morphogen. For example, one may obtain serum samples from a mammal, and then detect the concentration of morphogen or antibody present in the fluid by standard protein detection means known to those skilled in the art. As an example, binding protein capable of interacting specifically with the morphogen of interest such as an anti-morphogen antibody may be used to detect a morphogen in a standard immunoassay. The morphogen levels detected then may be compared to a previously determined standard or reference level, with changes in the detected levels being indicative of the status of the tissue.

In one preferred embodiment of the invention, the morphogen or morphogen-stimulating agent is administered systemically to the individual, e.g., orally or parenterally. In another embodiment of the invention, the morphogen may be provided directly to the nerve tissue, e.g., by injection to the cerebral spinal fluid or to a nerve tissue locus.

In any treatment method of the invention, "administration of morphogen" refers to the administration of the morphogen, either alone or in combination with other molecules. For example, the mature form of the morphogen may be provided in association with its precursor "pro" domain, which is known to enhance the solubility of the protein. Other useful molecules known to enhance protein solubility include casein and other milk components, as well as various serum proteins. Additional useful molecules which may be associated with the morphogen or morphogen-stimulating agent include tissue targeting molecules capable of directing the morphogen or morphogen-stimulating agent to nerve tissue. Tissue targeting molecules envisioned to be useful in the treatment protocols of this invention include antibodies, antibody fragments or other binding proteins which interact specifically with surface molecules on nerve tissue cells.

Still another useful tissue targeting molecule is part or all of the morphogen precursor "pro" domain, particularly that of OP-1 or GDF-1. These proteins are found naturally associated with nerve tissue but also may be synthesized in other tissues and targeted to nerve tissue after secretion from the synthesizing tissue. For example, while the protein has been shown to be active in bone tissue, the primary source of OP-1 synthesis appears to be the tissue of the urogenic system (e.g., renal and bladder tissue), with secondary expression levels occurring in the brain, heart and lungs (see below.) Moreover, the protein has been identified in serum, saliva and various milk forms. In addition, the secreted form of the protein comprises the mature dimer in association with the pro domain of the intact morphogen sequence. Accordingly, the associated morphogen pro domains may act to target specific morphogens to different tissues in vivo.

Associated tissue targeting or solubility-enhancing molecules also may be covalently linked to the morphogen using standard chemical means, including acid-labile linkages, which likely will be preferentially cleaved in the acidic environment of bone remodeling sites.

Finally, the morphogens or morphogen-stimulating agents provided herein also may be administered in combination with other molecules known to be beneficial in maintaining neural pathways, including, for example, nerve growth factors and anti-inflammatory agents.

Where the morphogen is intended for use as a therapeutic for disorders of the CNS, an additional problem must be addressed: overcoming the so-called "blood-brain barrier", the brain capillary wall structure that effectively screens out all but selected categories of molecules present in the blood, preventing their passage into the brain. The blood-brain barrier may be bypassed effectively by direct infusion of the morphogen or morphogen-stimulating agent into the brain. Alternatively, the morphogen or morphogen-stimulating agent may be modified to enhance its transport across the blood-brain barrier. For example, truncated forms of the morphogen or a morphogen-stimulating agent may be most successful. Alternatively, the morphogen or morphogen-stimulating agent may be modified to render it more lipophilic, or it may be conjugated to another molecule which is naturally transported across the barrier, using standard means known to those skilled in the art, as, for example, described in Pardridge, Endocrine Reviews 7:314-330 (1986) and U.S. Pat. No. 4,801,575.

Accordingly, as used herein, a functional "analog" of a morphogen refers to a protein having morphogenic biological activity but possessing additional structural differences compared to a morphogen as defined herein, e.g., having additional chemical moieties not normally a part of a morphogen. Such moieties (introduced, for example, by acylation, alkylation, cationization, or glycosylation reactions, or other means for conjugating the moiety to the morphogen) may improve the molecule's solubility, absorption, biological half-life, or transport, e.g., across the blood-brain barrier.

Among the morphogens useful in this invention are proteins originally identified as osteogenic proteins, such as the OP-1, OP-2 and CBMP2 proteins, as well as amino acid sequence-related proteins such as DPP (from Drosophila), Vgl (from Xenopus), Vgr-1 (from mouse, see U.S. Pat. No. 5,011,691 to Oppermann et al.), GDF-1 (from mouse, see Lee (1991) PNAS 88:4250-4254), all of which are presented in Table II (see Original Patent) and Seq. ID Nos.5-14), and the recently identified 60A protein (from Drosophila, Seq. ID No. 24, see Wharton et al. (1991) PNAS 88:9214-9218.) The members of this family, which include members of the TGF-.beta. super-family of proteins, share substantial amino acid sequence homology in their C-terminal regions. The proteins are translated as a precursor, having an N-terminal signal peptide sequence, typically less than about 30 residues, followed by a "pro" domain that is cleaved to yield the mature sequence. The signal peptide is cleaved rapidly upon translation, at a cleavage site that can be predicted in a given sequence using the method of Von Heijne ((1986) Nucleic Acids Research 14:4683-4691.) Table I (see Original Patent) describes the various morphogens identified to date, including their nomenclature as used herein, their Seq. ID references, and publication sources for the amino acid sequences for the full length proteins not included in the Seq. Listing. The disclosure of these publications is incorporated herein by reference.

In one preferred aspect, the morphogens of this invention comprise one of two species of generic amino acid sequences: Generic Sequence 1 (Seq. ID No. 1) or Generic Sequence 2 (Seq. ID No. 2); where each Xaa indicates one of the 20 naturally-occurring L-isomer, .alpha.-amino acids or a derivative thereof. Generic Sequence 1 comprises the conserved six cysteine skeleton and Generic Sequence 2 comprises the conserved six cysteine skeleton plus the additional cysteine identified in OP-2 (see residue 36, Seq. ID No. 2). In another preferred aspect, these sequences further comprise the following additional sequence at their N-terminus -- see Original Patent.

Preferred amino acid sequences within the foregoing generic sequences include: Generic Sequence 3 (Seq. ID No. 3), Generic Sequence 4 (Seq. ID No. 4), Generic Sequence 5 (Seq. ID No. 30) and Generic Sequence 6 (Seq. ID No. 31), listed below. These Generic Sequences accommodate the homologies shared among the various preferred members of this morphogen family identified in Table II, as well as the amino acid sequence variation among them. Specifically, Generic Sequences 3 and 4 are composite amino acid sequences of the following proteins presented in Table II and identified in Seq. ID Nos. 5-14: human OP-1 (hOP-1, Seq. ID Nos. 5 and 16-17), mouse OP-1 (mOP-1, Seq. ID Nos. 6 and 18-19), human and mouse OP-2 (Seq. ID Nos. 7, 8, and 20-22), CBMP2A (Seq. ID No. 9), CBMP2B (Seq. ID No. 10), DPP (from Drosophila, Seq. ID No. 11), Vgl, (from Xenopus, Seq. ID No. 12), Vgr-1 (from mouse, Seq. ID No. 13), and GDF-1 (from mouse, Seq. ID No. 14.) The generic sequences include both the amino acid identity shared by the sequences in Table II, as well as alternative residues for the variable positions within the sequence. Note that these generic sequences allow for an additional cysteine at position 41 or 46 in Generic Sequences 3 or 4, respectively, providing an appropriate cysteine skeleton where inter- or intramolecular disulfide bonds can form, and contain certain-critical amino acids which influence the tertiary structure of the proteins.

Similarly, Generic Sequence 5 (Seq. ID No. 30) and Generic Sequence 6 (Seq. ID No. 31) accommodate the homologies shared among all the morphogen protein family members identified in Table II. Specifically, Generic Sequences 5 and 6 are composite amino acid sequences of human OP-1 (hOP-1, Seq. ID Nos. 5 and 16-17), mouse OP-1 (mOP-1, Seq. ID Nos. 6 and 18-19), human and mouse OP-2 (Seq. ID Nos. 7, 8, and 20-22), CBMP2A (Seq. ID No. 9), CBMP2B (Seq. ID No. 10), DPP (from Drosophila, Seq. ID No. 11), Vgl, (from Xenopus, Seq. ID No. 12), Vgr-1 (from mouse, Seq. ID No. 13), and GDF-1 (from mouse, Seq. ID No. 14), human BMP3 (Seq. ID No. 26), human BMP5 (Seq. ID No. 27), human BMP6 (Seq. ID No. 28) and 60(A) (from Drosophila, Seq. ID Nos. 24-25). The generic sequences include both the amino acid identity shared by these sequences in the C-terminal domain, defined by the six and seven cysteine skeletons (Generic Sequences 5 and 6, respectively), as well as alternative residues for the variable positions within the sequence. As for Generic Sequences 3 and 4, Generic Sequences 5 and 6 allow for an additional cysteine at position 41 (Generic Sequence 5) or position 46 (Generic Sequence 6), providing an appropriate cysteine skeleton where inter- or intramolecular disulfide bonds can form, and containing certain critical amino acids which influence the tertiary structure of the proteins.

Particularly useful sequences for use as morphogens in this invention include the C-terminal domains, e.g., the C-terminal 96-102 amino acid residues of Vgl, Vgr-1, DPP, OP-1, OP-2, CBMP-2A, CBMP-2B, GDF-1 (see Table II (see Original Patent) and Seq. ID Nos. 5-14), as well as proteins comprising the C-terminal domains of 60A, BMP3, BMP5 and BMP6 (see Seq. ID Nos. 24-28), all of which include at least the conserved six or seven cysteine skeleton. In addition, biosynthetic constructs designed from the generic sequences, such as COP-1, 3-5, 7, 16, disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,011,691, also are useful. Other sequences include the inhibins/activin proteins (see, for example, U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,968,590 and 5,011,691). Accordingly, other useful sequences are those sharing at least 70% amino acid sequence homology or "similarity", and preferably 80% homology or similarity with any of the sequences above. These are anticipated to include allelic and species variants and mutants, and biosynthetic muteins, as well as novel members of this morphogenic family of proteins. Particularly envisioned in the family of related proteins are those proteins exhibiting morphogenic activity and wherein the amino acid changes from the preferred sequences include conservative changes, e.g., those as defined by Dayoff et al., Atlas of Protein Sequence and Structure; vol. 5, Suppl. 3, pp. 345-362, (M. O. Dayoff, ed., Nat'l BioMed. Research Fdn., Washington, D.C. 1979). As used herein, potentially useful sequences are aligned with a known morphogen sequence using the method of Needleman et al. ((1970) J. Mol. Biol. 48:443-453) and identities calculated by the Align program (DNAstar, Inc.). "Homology" or "similarity" as used herein includes allowed conservative changes as defined by Dayoff et al.

The currently most preferred protein sequences useful as morphogens in this invention include those having greater than 60% identity, preferably greater than 65% identity, with the amino acid sequence defining the conserved six cysteine skeleton of hOP1 (e.g., residues 43-139 of Seq. ID No. 5). These most preferred sequences include both allelic and species variants of the OP-1 and OP-2 proteins, including the Drosophila 60A protein. Accordingly, in another preferred aspect of the invention, useful morphogens include active proteins comprising species of polypeptide chains having the generic amino acid sequence herein referred to as "OPX", which accommodates the homologies between the various identified species of OP1 and OP2 (Seq. ID No. 29).

The morphogens useful in the methods, composition and devices of this invention include proteins comprising any of the polypeptide chains described above, whether isolated from naturally-occurring sources, or produced by recombinant DNA or other synthetic techniques, and includes allelic and species variants of these proteins, naturally-occurring or biosynthetic mutants thereof, as well as various truncated and fusion constructs. Deletion or addition mutants also are envisioned to be active, including those which may alter the conserved C-terminal cysteine skeleton, provided that the alteration does not functionally disrupt the relationship of these cysteines in the folded structure. Accordingly, such active forms are considered the equivalent of the specifically described constructs disclosed herein. The proteins may include forms having varying glycosylation patterns, varying N-termini, a family of related proteins having regions of amino acid sequence homology, and active truncated or mutated forms of native or biosynthetic proteins, produced by expression of recombinant DNA in host cells.

The morphogenic proteins can be expressed from intact or truncated cDNA or from synthetic DNAs in procaryotic or eucaryotic host cells, and purified, cleaved, refolded, and dimerized to form morphogenically active compositions. Currently preferred host cells include E. coli or mammalian cells, such as CHO, COS or BSC cells. A detailed description of the morphogens useful in the methods, compositions and devices of this invention is disclosed in copending U.S. patent application Ser. Nos. 07/752,764, filed Aug. 30, 1991, and 07/667,274, filed Mar. 11, 1991, the disclosure of which are incorporated herein by reference.

Thus, in view of this disclosure, skilled genetic engineers can isolate genes from cDNA or genomic libraries of various different species which encode appropriate amino acid sequences, or construct DNAs from oligonucleotides, and then can express them in various types of host cells, including both procaryotes and eucaryotes, to produce large quantities of active proteins capable of maintaining neural pathways in a mammal, including enhancing the survival of neurons at risk of dying and stimulating nerve regeneration and repair in a variety of mammals, including humans.
 

Claim 1 of 18 Claims

1. A method for decreasing neuronal cell death associated with a neuropathy, wherein neuronal cell survival is mediated by expression of N-CAM or L1, comprising: administering to a subject afflicted with said neuropathy a morphogen comprising a dimeric protein, the dimeric protein having one or more of the following: (1) a conserved C-terminal six-cysteine skeleton at least 60% identical to residues 43-139 of SEQ ID NO: 5; (2) a conserved C-terminal seven-cysteine skeleton at least 70% homologous to residues 38-139 of SEQ ID NO: 5; (3) a conserved C-terminal six-cysteine skeleton at least 70% homologous to residues 43-139 of SEQ ID NO: 5; or (4) an amino acid sequence of human OP-1, mouse OP-1, human OP-2, mouse OP-2, 60A, GDF-1, BMP2A, BMP2B, DPP, Vgl, Vgr-1, BMP3, BMP5, or BMP6; wherein the morphogen (i) stimulates the production of said N-CAM or L1 in said neuronal cell, and (ii) decreases neuronal cell death associated with said neuropathy.

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