Technology  November 29, 2013

A prof’s vision

AURORA – Jeff Bennett, an eye doctor and professor, has found a treatment that may be used in the future to fight a rare autoimmune disorder that can cause blindness.

Cells in a person’s immune system attack themselves in people who have neuromyelitis optica, or Devic’s disease, as it is also known. Bennett has found a way to use modified antibodies of a patient with the disease to compete with other diseased antibodies and potentially kill off the disease. He is based at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora as a professor in the CU School of Medicine, Department of Neurology.

Since current treatments only suppress immune-system symptoms, they often make patients more susceptible to infections, Bennett said. The new treatment may work much better because it doesn’t modulate immune-system function, Bennett said.

Researchers don’t know what causes Devic’s disease, which afflicts about 20,000 people in the United States and is similar in many ways to multiple sclerosis. There’s no cure for the disease, which also affects an infected patient’s spinal cord, and also can lead to muscle weakness in all four limbs and loss of bladder control. The disease is more common in Southeast Asia, although researchers don’t know why that is, Bennett said.

Bennett and colleague Dr. Alan Verkman at the University of California San Francisco have patented the treatment they believe can be used to fight the disease. An option to purchase the patent has been bought by a venture capital company, Bennett said.

If research goes as planned, a drug candidate may be ready for clinical trials on patients in the next six months to a year, Bennett said. He estimates that tests could take about five years before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the drug candidate. The FDA requires all drug candidates to go through extensive testing before approving them for commercial sale.

AURORA – Jeff Bennett, an eye doctor and professor, has found a treatment that may be used in the future to fight a rare autoimmune disorder that can cause blindness.

Cells in a person’s immune system attack themselves in people who have neuromyelitis optica, or Devic’s disease, as it is also known. Bennett has found a way to use modified antibodies of a patient with the disease to compete with other diseased antibodies and potentially kill off the disease. He is based at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora as a professor in the CU School of Medicine,…

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