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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Apr 15;100(8):4790-5. Epub 2003 Mar 31.

Therapeutic vaccine for acute and chronic motor neuron diseases: implications for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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  • 1Department of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, University of Cologne, D50924 Cologne, Germany.


Therapeutic vaccination with Copaxone (glatiramer acetate, Cop-1) protects motor neurons against acute and chronic degenerative conditions. In acute degeneration after facial nerve axotomy, the number of surviving motor neurons was almost two times higher in Cop-1-vaccinated mice than in nonvaccinated mice, or in mice injected with PBS emulsified in complete Freund's adjuvant (P < 0.05). In mice that express the mutant human gene Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase G93A (SOD1), and therefore simulate the chronic human motor neuron disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Cop-1 vaccination prolonged life span compared to untreated matched controls, from 211 +/- 7 days (n = 15) to 263 +/- 8 days (n = 14; P < 0.0001). Our studies show that vaccination significantly improved motor activity. In line with the experimentally based concept of protective autoimmunity, these findings suggest that Cop-1 vaccination boosts the local immune response needed to combat destructive self-compounds associated with motor neuron death. Its differential action in CNS autoimmune diseases and neurodegenerative disorders, depending on the regimen used, allows its use as a therapy for either condition. Daily administration of Cop-1 is an approved treatment for multiple sclerosis. The protocol for non-autoimmune neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, remains to be established by future studies.

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