January 28, 2022

Neurologists get ready for clinical trial with exploratory grant worth $2 million from NIH

Yongsheng Chen, Ph.D., and Jun Li, M.D., Ph.D. are the project's investigators.

A duo at the Wayne State University School of Medicine have been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health worth more than $2 million to develop a set of readouts using quantitative magnetic resonance imaging and human skin biopsies to track nerve pathologies over the course of inherited peripheral nerve diseases.

Project leader and co-principal investigator Yongsheng Chen, Ph.D., assistant professor of Neurology; and co-principal investigator Jun Li, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of Neurology, will use a five-year grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to conduct the study.

The project, “Biomarker development in patients with HNPP,” is supported by a new R61/R33 Exploratory/Developmental Phased Award. The NINDS will provide $1.2 million in funding for the first three years, followed by an additional $1 million at the end of the third year.

Hereditary neuropathy with liability to pressure palsies, or HNPP, is an inherited disorder in which the nerves become increasingly sensitive to pressure, injury or use. Nerves are easily damaged by slight pressure or injury or by repetitive use. Numbness, tingling and weakness occur in the affected area.

The researchers previously identified a potential treatment, and will now prepare for a clinical trial by validating two potential monitoring biomarkers using human skin biopsy and quantitative MRI, which may serve as primary or secondary outcome measures in HNPP.

The readouts can be used to serve as objective measurements to determine whether a new treatment is effective for the disease. There have been increasing therapeutic interventions available to treat inherited peripheral nerve diseases, but their effectiveness has to be validated using these outcome tools.

“This study will expand the utility of these tools, which would be crucial for future therapeutic development. With support from NIH, we are excited about the prospect of this project going forward,” Dr. Li said.

The number for this grant R61NS119434-01A1.

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