Using Patient’s Blood to Develop a Sensory Neuron-Based Platform to Treat Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy


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Challenge: The sensory neuron damage referred as “Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy” (CIPN) affects 30-40% of cancer patients in Canada. Sensory neurons transmit information from the brain to every other part of the body allowing movement and awareness of our environment. The deterioration of these cells from chemotherapy causes severe pain often leading to the interruption of chemotherapy treatments. Unfortunately, developing a robust drug screening assay to evaluate side-effects of potential drug candidates remains very challenging, mostly due to the lack of availability of human peripheral nerves and related assays.

Solution: The team developed a unique technology to generate human peripheral sensory neurons (iSNs) in sufficient quantities from cryopreserved adult donor blood-draws for drug validation and testing. This method circumvents the needs to generate and characterize induced pluripotent cells. These sensory neurons are the basis of a miniaturized and automated high throughput assay to detect Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy for thousands of drug candidates.

Achievements/Impact: The team demonstrated that these sensory neurons exhibited quantifiable dose-dependent alterations in neurite morphology in response to a chemotherapeutic (Taxol) challenge. Such effect was obtained without concomitant loss of viability, thereby mimicking the clinical presentation of CIPN. The team has filed a patent to protect their technology and is now ready to identify compounds that either do not induce Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy or protect against it.

Principal Investigator:
Mickey Bhatia
McMaster University
Karun Singh
McMaster University
Completed Project
$ 300,000 / 2 years
Supported by CQDM through:
– Merck
– Pfizer
– Boehringer Ingelheim
– Janssen
– Novartis
– Sanofi
And by a co-funding partner:
– Ontario Centres of Excellence
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