Development of an extended half-life GM-CSF fusion protein for Parkinson's disease

Pravin Yeapuri, Katherine E. Olson, Yaman Lu, Mai Mohamed Abdelmoaty, Krista L. Namminga, Milica Markovic, Jatin Machhi, R. Lee Mosley, Howard E. Gendelman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Transformation of CD4+ T cell effector to regulatory (Teff to Treg) cells have been shown to attenuate disease progression by restoring immunological balance during the onset and progression of neurodegenerative diseases. In our prior studies, we defined a safe and effective pathway to restore this balance by restoring Treg numbers and function through the daily administration of the cytokine granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). These studies were conducted as a proof-of-concept testing in Parkinson's disease (PD) preclinical models and early phase I clinical investigations. In both instances, they served to ameliorate disease associated signs and symptoms. However, despite the recorded efficacy, the cytokine's short half-life, low bioavailability, and injection site reactions proved to be limitations for any broader use. To overcome these limitations, mRNA lipid nanoparticles encoding an extended half-life albumin-GM-CSF fusion protein were developed for both mouse (Msa-GM-CSF) and rat (Rsa-GM-CSF). These formulations were tested for immunomodulatory and neuroprotective efficacy using 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) and human wild-type alpha-synuclein (αSyn) overexpression preclinical models of PD. A single dose of the extended half-life mouse and rat mRNA lipid nanoparticles generated measurable GM-CSF plasma cytokine levels up to four days. Increased Treg frequency and function were associated with a resting microglial phenotype, nigrostriatal neuroprotection, and restoration of brain tissue immune homeostasis. These findings were substantively beyond the recorded efficacy of daily recombinant wild-type GM-CSF with a recorded half-life of six hours. Mechanistic evaluation of neuropathological transcriptional profiles performed in the disease-affected nigral brain region demonstrated an upregulation of neuroprotective CREB and synaptogenesis signaling and neurovascular coupling pathways. These findings highlight the mRNA-encoded albumin GM-CSF fusion protein modification linked to improvements in therapeutic efficacy. The improvements achieved were associated with the medicine's increased bioavailability. Taken together, the data demonstrate that mRNA LNP encoding the extended half-life albumin-GM-CSF fusion protein can serve as a benchmark for PD immune-based therapeutics. This is especially notable for improving adherence of drug regimens in a disease-affected patient population with known tremors and gait abnormalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)951-965
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Controlled Release
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • Extended half-life
  • Fusion proteins
  • Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor
  • Lipid nanoparticle (LNP)
  • Long-acting
  • Neuroprotection
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Regulatory T cell (Treg)
  • T cell
  • mRNAs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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