ThaXonian - Magnetic Axon Therapy
ThaXonian is an interdisciplinary research project with the goal of developing, constructing and testing a magnetic pulse prototype therapy system for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. ThaXonian emerged from the NeuroMax project. This facility will use electromagnetic fields to produce therapeutic effects in specific neurons and their extensions, the motor neurons and axons. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) serves as the maximum model of a neuronal disease. The development and optimization of the therapy system is based on the results of cell biological investigations on human motor neurons. In these studies it could be shown that disturbed motor neurons are reactivated by magnetic pulses at a certain frequency and even regain their original performance.
- Current status
- ThaXonian technology: prototype therapy system
- Scientific background: Infographic
- Interim conclusion
- About ALS disease
- ThaXonian movie clip
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The team led by physicist Dr. Thomas Herrmannsdörfer, medical scientist Prof. Richard Funk and cell biologist Dr. Arun Pal has already cultivated a large number of human neuronal cells, stimulated them with magnetic fields and studied them. The cells had previously been obtained by stem-cell technology via skin biopsy, reprogramming and successive differentiation into spinal motor neurons. Cells from ALS affected and healthy individuals were studied and compared.
These accompanying cell biology experiments took place and are further conducted in laboratories of the Center for Radiopharmaceutical Tumor Research (ZRT) at HZDR. The cell lines are in turn obtained from cooperation partners at the University of Rostock by the team of Prof. Andreas Hermann. The investigation methods for testing the functionality of motor neurons, which was now adapted at the HZDR to investigate the influence of magnetic fields on these cells, were also developed and established by our Rostock colleagues.
The experiment data obtained so far allow us to derive the following generally valid results:
- The experiments performed within the project have demonstrated the in-vitro efficacy of cell stimulation by transient magnetic fields on axonal organelle transport, regeneration of axonal growth cones and in DNA repair in the genome.
- These three biological processes are crucial for neuronal functionality.
- It has been demonstrated that these vital functions can be sustainably restored in cell experiments by magnetic field exposure of motor neurons suffering from significant impairments as a consequence of advanced ALS disease.
- The required magnetic field frequencies and threshold values of the magnetic field amplitudes could be repeatedly verified in experiments on different cell cultures.
For further optimization, the team will extend future investigations to include other magnetic-field characteristics and additional neuronal diseases.
The ThaXonian team was able to develop a therapy apparatus based on the findings of the cell biological studies and conduct initial invitro test experiments with parts of the apparatus. The High Field Magnetic Laboratory Dresden (HLD) offers excellent and optimal conditions to develop a prototype pulsed field therapy device for neuronal diseases.
The team proceeded accordingly with the planning of the structural design, power electronics, the monitoring and control electronics, and the software of the ThaXonian therapy system. The optical design and the overall construction of the therapy system were mastered with the support of the Chair of Technical Design at TU Dresden. The team has already conducted initial pilot experiments with components of the therapy apparatus, again demonstrating the efficacy of transient magnetic fields for stimulating cultured motor neurons.
Damaged connections of motoneurons to muscles are restored by alternating magnetic fields
Center: the cell bodies of motoneurons in the spinal cord are projecting long axons wrapped in myelin sheaths along arms and legs to control the contraction of muscle fibres via neuromuscular junctions.
Top gallery: in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), axonal trafficking – i.e. the long-range transport of mitochondria and other organelles in axons driven by motor proteins along microtubules – is severely hampered. The underlying cause is the compromised stability of microtubules. Specifically, the microtubules as underlying roads are damaged themselves in their structural integrity. Furthermore, the axonal mitochondria are damaged in their structure and function, therefore the cellular respiration is ceased (mitochondrial morphology). Altogether, the mitochondria no longer function as crucial power stations and fail to deliver energy. As a result, the axons a dying back and lose their connections to the muscle fibres (neuromuscular junctions). The clinical outcome is a progressive muscle shrinking (atrophy and sclerosis) and paralysis in the ALS patient.
Left: Petri dishes with cultured motoneurons from ALS patients are placed within a magnetic coil to investigate the therapeutic impact of alternating magnetic fields. In the shown configuration, the axons of the motoneurons in the Petri dish are oriented in a perpendicular fashion with respect to the homogeneous magnetic field within the central bore of the coil.
Bottom gallery: the ThaXonian team has systematically optimized the technical parameters of the magnetic field stimulation to restore axonal trafficking, microtubular stability, mitochondrial morphology and supposedly the connectivity across neuromuscular junctions back to levels similar to healthy motoneurons.
Reactivation of motor neurons by magnetic pulses: In healthy people, the motor neurons move completely normally; in ALS patients, they stand still. But the magnetic pulses reactivate the motor neurons and at a certain frequency they even regain their original efficiency.
The interdisciplinary ThaXonian project team has succeeded in laying the foundations for a treatment approach to neurodegenerative diseases using innovative experimental methods with both cell biological and physical backgrounds. If the findings obtained in the cell experiments are also confirmed in studies with the prototype therapy system, this will lay the foundation for a promising method for the treatment of serious nerve diseases that is foreseeably free of pain and pharmaceutical substances. This is based on tailored sequences of transient magnetic field exposures to nerve tracts.
This would be invaluable for patients suffering from ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases. ALS is currently not considered curable or treatable and can often lead to death after only a few years after diagnosis. The project team now intends to intensify the cell biological studies and extend them to other neuronal diseases, as well as to validate and further develop the therapeutic system.
In healthy people, so-called motor neurons - special nerve cells in the cerebral cortex, brain stem and spinal cord - send signals to skeletal muscles to trigger movement. In amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, these neurons are severely damaged and no longer send signals. As a result, the muscles do not receive instructions, can no longer work and gradually dwindle. Usually, problems with arms and legs are the first symptoms; in some patients, the disease also manifests itself with speech disorders or swallowing difficulties.
Although ALS has been known for about 100 years, there is still no prospect of a cure. There are only drug therapies to alleviate the symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. Around 8,000 patients are currently suffering from ALS throughout Germany, and around 800,000 people and their families are affected worldwide.
The team produced a film to draw attention to the research and hopes that this will also open up new sources of funding to continue the project “ThaXonian”.
Dr. Thomas Herrmannsdörfer and his team receive inquiries about this project almost on a daily basis, mostly from patients or their relatives. Unfortunately, the scientists are not able to talk to each and everyone personally at the moment. The current state of research is well reflected, for example, on this website.
At the moment, the scientists are intensively looking for cooperation and funding partners to continue the research project and to build and test the prototype therapy system. In parallel, they are examining the possibilities of a clinical trial.
If you would like to be informed about further project progress in the future, we will be happy to add you to our database and keep you up to date by e-mail in the event of new developments.
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In order to advance the research project as well as to be able to prepare a clinical study, financial donations are welcome. If you would like to support the "ThaXonian" project, we would be pleased to receive your donation.
Förderverein des Helmholtz-Zentrums Dresden-Rossendorf e. V.
Ostsächsische Sparkasse Dresden
IBAN: DE19 8505 0300 0221 2684 99
Payment reference: ThaXonian
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We sincerely thank all supporters, among others the ALS-Hilfe-Bayern e.V. .
You can reach the Thaxonian team at: email@example.com