Jonathan Wall, PhD, professor in the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s Graduate School of Medicine in Knoxville and director of the Amyloidosis and Cancer Theranostics, has been awarded a two-year grant totaling $385,000 from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health to study new treatments for systemic amyloidosis.
“Our studies will focus on the development and characterization of engineered immune cells (macrophages) that are capable of enhanced destruction of amyloid due to the expression of a synthetic amyloid-reactive receptor,” Dr. Wall said. “This receptor will be constructed in the laboratory and introduced into the cells, which will then be tested for their ability to destroy amyloid deposits. Current therapies are directed toward decreasing the amount of precursor protein that is available for amyloid formation, thereby slowing the disease progression. However, our team has several programs that focus on developing ways to remove the toxic amyloid deposits from the affected organs.”
The project is titled, “Development of chimeric antigen receptor-expressing macrophages for enhanced phagocytosis of systemic amyloid.” Typically, systemic amyloidosis develops when amyloid fibrils, or combined antibody-related light chain proteins that deposit in organs, such as the heart, kidney, and peripheral nerves. This can occur in more than 30 different disorders and may cause severe organ failure. Because amyloid is resistant to natural clearance, treatment for the diseases generally involves blocking production of the proteins that cause amyloid. However, clearance of tissue amyloid has now become a major goal of many of the novel therapeutics being developed for these patients.
In other amyloid-related research, Dr. Wall also serves as the interim chief scientific officer for Attralus, Inc., a startup company launched through a license with the UT Research Foundation, which recently received $25 million to work on transformative medicines for systemic amyloidosis patients.