Adult Stem Cell Technology
Our Adult Stem Cell Platform

Stem Cells - Background
Stem cells are undifferentiated primary cells that have the potential to become any tissue or organ of the body. They hold therapeutic promise for the development of effective treatments and possibly cure for various diseases. The current stem cell research efforts have been divided between embryonic and tissue specific adult stem cells as potential therapeutic progenitor cells. Recent experiments with embryonic stem (ES) cells have demonstrated that these highly proliferative, pluripotent cells can differentiate into pancreatic-like β-cells. The major problem with ES cells is their pluripotency and risk that these cells, once transplanted, could form tumors. Given that, adult tissue specific stem cells have become attractive as a potential cell therapeutic. Adult tissue specific stem cells have advantages over ES cells; first, these cells can be isolated from a more manageable source such as bone marrow or other tissues; second, they proliferate in a controlled fashion and without the likelihood of tumorogenicity, and third, they can be used in an autologous setting and avoid the potential for rejection which exists for allogenic use of stem cells.

Hematopoietic stem cells (HSC's), present in the bone marrow and precursors to all blood cells, are currently the only type of stem cells commonly used for therapy. Doctors have been transferring HSC's in bone marrow transplants for more than 40 years. Advanced techniques for collecting or "harvesting" HSC's are now used to treat leukemia, lymphoma and several inherited blood disorders.

The clinical potential of stem cells has also been demonstrated in the treatment of other human diseases, including diabetes and advanced kidney cancer. However, these new therapies have been offered only to a very limited number of patients using adult stem cells.

Stem cell therapies have technical, ethical and legal hurdles to overcome before they will be able to be used to possibly affect tissue and organ repair. A significant hurdle to most uses of stem cells is that scientists do not yet fully understand the signals that turn specific genes on and off to influence the differentiation of the stem cell. Therefore, scientists will have to be able to precisely control the differentiation of stem cells into the specific cell type to be used in therapy and drug testing. Current knowledge of the signals controlling differentiation falls well short of being able to mimic these conditions precisely to consistently have identical differentiated cells for each specified use.

To realize the promise of novel cell-based therapies for such pervasive and debilitating diseases such as diabetes and kidney cancer, scientists must be able to easily and reproducibly manipulate stem cells so that they possess the necessary characteristics for successful differentiation, transplantation and engraftment. To be useful for transplant purposes, stem cells must be reproducibly made to: proliferate extensively and generate sufficient quantities of tissue, differentiate into the desired cell type(s), survive in the recipient after transplant, integrate into the surrounding tissue after transplant, function appropriately for the duration of the recipient's life, avoid harming the recipient in any way, and avoid the problem of immune rejection. There is no assurance that any commercialized cell-based therapies will ever be developed.

Therapies Utilizing Our Stem Cell Platform
We have developed a proprietary adult stem cell technology to produce monocyte-derived stem cells (MDSC) from blood. These MDSC can be derived from a patient's monocytes, expanded ex vivo, and then administered to the same patient. We believe that because this is an autologous therapy, there should be no allogenic rejection issues as self-derived MDSC pose no immunological problems. Normally, allogenic cells are deleted by host immune responses and require the use of anti-rejection drugs.

Our novel multi-potent stem cell is derived from peripheral blood monocytes which when cultured under defined conditions are able to further differentiate into several cellular lineages. Molecular biology and immunohistochemical studies have shown that these MDSCs have specific markers that distinguish them from other stem cells. In addition these studies have also shown a time-dependence for the expression of these specific gene products during the growth and differentiation of MDSCs. In vitro experiments with MDSCs have shown their capacity to differentiate towards hematopoietic, epithelial, endothelial, endocrine and neuronal cells. Our main focus is the further development of this monocyte-derived stem cell technology as a novel platform for the in vitro generation of highly specialized cells for potential application in autologous cell therapy for patients with diseases such as diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease.

Working either alone or in conjunction with strategic partners, we intend to utilize these MDSC from the same patient to attempt to develop a therapy which may cause autologous tissue or organ repair. The initial internal therapeutic target is diabetes mellitus. Other therapeutic targets would be pursued through early-stage licensing or strategic alliances. The diabetes program is currently in pre-clinical development.

Pancreatic Islet Cell Development
Diabetes is a disease characterized by the failure or loss of pancreatic β-cells to generate sufficient levels of the hormone insulin required to meet the body's need to maintain normal nutrient homeostasis. Type 1 diabetes is caused by the complete loss of pancreatic β-cells when the body's own immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys a person's β-cells. While for Type 2 diabetes the causes are far more complicated and poorly understood, the results of the disease are similar in that often the β-cells fail to generate sufficient amounts of insulin to maintain normal homeostasis. The loss of insulin results in an increase in blood glucose levels and will eventually lead to the development of premature cardiovascular disease, stroke, and kidney failure. Currently there is no permanent cure for diabetes; however, recent clinical islet cell transplantations have shown good success in restoring long-term endogenous insulin production and glycemic stability in subjects who have Type 1 diabetes mellitus with unstable baseline control. Persistent islet function without injected insulin dependence provides considerable benefit.

Current cell transplant therapy for the treatment of diabetes is limited by an inadequate supply of insulin-producing cells. Cadaveric sources are limited and up to three pancreas are required to obtain clinically significant quantities of β-cells for one patient. The identification of novel adult human stem cells provides a new prospect for obtaining a sufficient number of insulin-producing β-cells for transplantation. Using our technology a single blood draw may be adequate to produce clinical quantities of β-cells for a patient.

In vitro experiments with MDSC have shown their capacity to differentiate toward a wide variety of cell types including pancreatic β-like cells. These cells aggregate into clusters resembling pancreatic Islets of Langerhans termed monocyte derived islets (MDI). The cluster aggregates show endocrine gene expression. Biochemical assays have demonstrated that MDI can synthesize and secrete significant amounts of insulin during their growth and respond in a glucose-dependent manner. In addition, MDI can be stimulated or repressed by the addition of agonists or antagonists of insulin in vitro.

The importance of these stem cells is the ability to easily and cost effectively derive them from an individual's circulating monocytes, expand them and administer them back into the same patient. This autologous approach provides a method to overcome any rejection issues and the need for immunosuppressant drugs, which are often associated with current transplantations.