Mitochondrial Targeting Sequence (MTS)
Our Mitochondrial Targeting Sequence (MTS) is a powerful technology that permits missing mitochondrial proteins to be shuttled into the mitochondrion, enabling restoration of mitochondrial function.
Our MTS technology platform enables efficient expression of a mitochondrial gene by nuclear deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, and delivery of messenger ribonucleic acid, or mRNA, to polysomes located at the mitochondrial surface. This allows for the synthesis, internalization and proper localization of the mitochondrial protein.
Mitochondrial DNA mutations, whether inherited or acquired, lead to impairment of the electron transport chain functioning. Impaired electron transport, in turn, leads to decreased adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, production, overall reduced energy supply to the cells, formation of damaging free-radicals, and altered calcium metabolism. These toxic consequences lead to further mitochondrial damage including oxidation of mitochondrial DNA, proteins and lipids, and opening of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore, an event linked to cell death. This cycle of increasing oxidative damage insidiously damages neurons, including those in the retina, over a period of years, eventually leading to neuronal cell death.
LHON originates from mutations in three NADH Dehydrogenase mitochondrial genes: ND1, ND4 and ND6. Because ND4 mutations account for more than 75% of the LHON population in North America and Europe, we chose to first focus on this specific mutation. We have demonstrated the feasibility of using the MTS technology platform for the treatment of LHON due to the ND4 gene mutation in animal studies. We plan to use our MTS technology platform to address other LHON mutations and have already initiated a research program for our next potential product candidate, GS011, which targets the ND1 gene mutation.
We believe that our MTS technology platform can also be used to address diseases outside of ophthalmology that involve defects of the mitochondrion, such as neurodegenerative disorders.