Enzo Biochem Inc. (NYSE:ENZ) today announced publication of a study in a leading scientific journal, Modern Pathology, a Nature Publishing Group publication, that shows a strong association of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a pulmonary disease with 100% mortality within five years, with the presence of the herpesvirus saimiri virus, a virus native to squirrel monkeys. The breakthrough discovery of the IPF’s origin is expected to result in a clinical diagnostic that could lead to screening and diagnosis, and perhaps result in potential treatment, for this fatal disease.
The publication was authored by scientists from Enzo Biochem, Ohio State University, the Medical College of Wisconsin and Cornell University. The discovery is the subject of a patent application that is exclusively assigned to Enzo Biochem. “The significance of this discovery, beyond providing a reliable marker for screening and diagnosis, is the potential for development of new therapeutic strategies and better understanding of the progression of the disease in humans,” said Elazar Rabbani, study co-author and Chief Executive Officer of Enzo. “This may also translate into a patient's ability to live with the disease or even be cured if the fibrosis is not too advanced.”
Pulmonary fibrosis affects about one million people in the United States, of which IPF represents about 200,000 cases (20%). There is currently no effective way to diagnose IPF prior to the clinical manifestation of symptoms and treatments are largely ineffective. This new marker for IPF could address the urgent critical requirement for early diagnosis and screening of the pulmonary fibrosis population (over a million subjects).
“Discovering the origin of IPF gives us hope that both diagnostics and treatments will be developed to help patients survive and live with this devastating illness,”
said Gerard J. Nuovo, MD, study co-author and Professor (retired), Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. “While the sample size is small there are multiple data points that support our findings that herpesvirus saimiri infection may be the cause of IPF. For example, there was a 100% correlation –both positively and negatively-where the virus was present in all IPF samples and absent in all non-IPF controls. Additionally, the virus was found in the cell that orchestrates IPF and a key gene expressed in the tissue was identified as viral, and not human, in nature.”
Methodology and Findings
The goal of the study was to evaluate the role of the herpesviruses family in IPF. Researchers used 21 paraffin embedded lung biopsies from patients diagnosed with IPF, and 21 lung biopsies from age matched controls with pulmonary fibrosis that is not IPF.