The Maine Technology Institute (MTI) has awarded a $25,000 seed grant to Sandra Rieger, Ph.D., of the MDI Biological Laboratory to study peripheral neuropathy, a condition that causes pain, tingling and numbness in the hands and feet and affects an estimated 20 to 40 million Americans.
The one-year grant will allow Rieger to collaborate with scientists from the University of New England (UNE) in Biddeford, Maine, to ascertain if compounds she previously identified as preventing or somewhat reversing peripheral neuropathy in zebrafish are also effective in rats.
The research in rats, which are mammals like humans, is an important step in moving the compounds into human clinical studies. Currently, no treatments for peripheral neuropathy exist, except for symptoms such as pain.
The causes of peripheral neuropathy include cancer chemotherapy, diabetes, antibiotic treatment and other conditions. Rieger studies peripheral neuropathy induced by Taxol (paclitaxel), a common chemotherapy agent. She has identified two compounds that have the potential to prevent or reverse the potentially disabling condition.
The compounds Rieger has discovered are the subject of a provisional patent issued to the MDI Biological Laboratory last year. Part of the MTI seed grant will be used to pursue the full patent for the use of these compounds.