After CNS trauma such as spinal cord injury, the ability of surviving neural elements to sprout axons, reorganize neural networks and support recovery of function is severely restricted, contributing to chronic neurological deficits. Among limitations on neural recovery are myelin-associated inhibitors functioning as ligands for neuronal Nogo receptor 1 (NgR1). A soluble decoy (NgR1-Fc, AXER-204) blocks these ligands and provides a means to promote recovery of function in multiple preclinical rodent models of spinal cord injury. However, the safety and efficacy of this reagent in non-human primate spinal cord injury and its toxicological profile have not been described. Here, we provide evidence that chronic intrathecal and intravenous administration of NgR1-Fc to cynomolgus monkey and to rat are without evident toxicity at doses of 20 mg and greater every other day (≥2.0 mg/kg/day), and far greater than the projected human dose. Adult female African green monkeys underwent right C5/6 lateral hemisection with evidence of persistent disuse of the right forelimb during feeding and right hindlimb during locomotion. At 1 month post-injury, the animals were randomized to treatment with vehicle (n = 6) or 0.10-0.17 mg/kg/day of NgR1-Fc (n = 8) delivered via intrathecal lumbar catheter and osmotic minipump for 4 months. One animal was removed from the study because of surgical complications of the catheter, but no treatment-related adverse events were noted in either group. Animal behaviour was evaluated at 6-7 months post-injury, i.e. 1-2 months after treatment cessation. The use of the impaired forelimb during spontaneous feeding and the impaired hindlimb during locomotion were both significantly greater in the treatment group. Tissue collected at 7-12 months post-injury showed no significant differences in lesion size, fibrotic scar, gliosis or neuroinflammation between groups. Serotoninergic raphespinal fibres below the lesion showed no deficit, with equal density on the lesioned and intact side below the level of the injury in both groups. Corticospinal axons traced from biotin-dextran-amine injections in the left motor cortex were equally labelled across groups and reduced caudal to the injury. The NgR1-Fc group tissue exhibited a significant 2-3-fold increased corticospinal axon density in the cervical cord below the level of the injury relative to the vehicle group. The data show that NgR1-Fc does not have preclinical toxicological issues in healthy animals or safety concerns in spinal cord injury animals. Thus, it presents as a potential therapeutic for spinal cord injury with evidence for behavioural improvement and growth of injured pathways in non-human primate spinal cord injury.
Keywords: Nogo receptor; axon; oligodendrocyte; regeneration; spinal cord injury.
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