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PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e39036. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0039036. Epub 2012 Jun 20.

A monoclonal antibody-GDNF fusion protein is not neuroprotective and is associated with proliferative pancreatic lesions in parkinsonian monkeys.

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Preclinical Parkinson's Research Program, Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America.


Glial cell line derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) is a neurotrophic factor that has neuroprotective effects in animal models of Parkinson's disease (PD) and has been proposed as a PD therapy. GDNF does not cross the blood brain barrier (BBB), and requires direct intracerebral delivery to be effective. Trojan horse technology, in which GDNF is coupled to a monoclonal antibody (mAb) against the human insulin receptor (HIR), has been proposed to allow GDNF BBB transport (ArmaGen Technologies Inc.). In this study we tested the feasibility of HIRMAb-GDNF to induce neuroprotection in parkinsonian monkeys, as well as its tolerability and safety. Adult rhesus macaques were assessed throughout the study with a clinical rating scale, a computerized fine motor skills task and general health evaluations. Following baseline measurements, the animals received a unilateral intracarotid artery MPTP injection. Seven days later the animals were evaluated, matched according to disability and blindly assigned to receive twice a week i.v. treatments (vehicle, 1 or 5 mg/kg HIRmAb-GDNF) for a period of three months. HIRmAb-GDNF did not improve parkinsonian motor symptoms and induced a dose-dependent hypersensitivity reaction. Quantification of dopaminergic striatal optical density and stereological nigral cell counts did not demonstrate differences between treatment groups. Focal pancreatic acinar to ductular metaplasia (ADM) was noted in four of seven animals treated with 1 mg/kg HIRmAb-GDNF; two of four with ADM also had focal pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia 1B (PanIN-1B) lesions. Minimal to mild, focal to multifocal, nonsuppurative myocarditis was noted in all animals in the 5 mg/kg treatment group. Our results demonstrate that HIRmAb-GDNF dosing in a monkey model of PD is not an effective neuroprotective strategy and may present serious health risks that should be considered when planning future use of the IR antibody as a carrier, or of any systemic treatment of a GDNF-containing molecule.

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