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Biotech, Univ. Lab Partner on Stem Cells for Alzheimer’s

Exosome illustration

Exosome illustration (National Cancer Institute)

6 February 2018. A biotechnology company specializing in stem cell therapeutics is licensing a process from Texas A&M University to produce exosomes — cellular delivery packages — from adult stem cells as possible therapies for Alzheimer’s disease. Financial aspects of the multi-year research agreement between Celltex Therapeutics Corp. in Houston, and Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Texas A&M College of Medicine in Bryan were not disclosed.

Celltex Therapeutics specializes in producing and storing individuals’ mesenchymal stem cells, adult stem cells derived from bone marrow and other soft tissues that can transform into a variety of skeletal and other tissue types. The company developed a process for extracting mesenchymal stem cells from a person’s adipose or fat tissues, then producing and storing large quantities of those stem cells for future regenerative therapies, if needed by that individual. The 7 year-old company says these banked stem cells can be used for treatments of vascular, autoimmune, and degenerative diseases.

The agreement gives Celltex an exclusive license to processes developed by the Institute for Regenerative Medicine for deriving exosomes with anti-inflammatory properties from mesenchymal stem cells. Exosomes are tiny — 40 to 150 nanometer — lipid-membrane containers in cells that gather up and secrete cytoplasm, the gel-like material outside the cell nucleus. While originally believed to carry out waste removal and other maintenance tasks, exosomes were shown in recent years to perform useful delivery functions carrying proteins and genetic material to other cells, and drawing increased attention from a range of biological disciplines.

The anti-inflammatory exosomes, in this case, will be used to treat brain inflammation and associated damage from Alzheimer’s disease. In the collaboration with Celltex, The institute’s director Darwin Prockop and colleagues will prepare mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs, and derive exosomes with the desired characteristics to stop brain inflammation. The institute’s associate director Ashok Shetty will test the efficiency of the exosomes in reducing inflammation and repairing nerve cells in the brain.

“The agreement with Celltex,” says Prockop in a university statement, “is based on our more recent discovery that we can use MSCs to produce large amounts of a specific kind of exosomes that reduce inflammation, which is a process by which the body tries to repair injured tissues.” Prockop adds that, “we found that our anti-inflammatory exosomes decreased tissue damage in several animal models for human diseases, including diseases of the brain.”

In an April 2017 paper, Shetty and Prockop describe the use of exosomes derived from mesenchymal stem cells to repair nerve cell damage in lab mice from induced traumatic brain injuries and seizures, as well as providing long-term protection of cognitive and memory functions. “We are hopeful that this research might someday treat the disease effectively by stopping or delaying the neuronal damage,” notes Shetty. “Alternatively, exosomes may rejuvenate the networks of surviving but sick neurons via anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects.”

The joint research with Celltex will also test the abilities of exosomes from mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs, in lab animals, but if successful, the lab hopes to have treatments ready for clinical trials within 3 years.

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Update, 7 February 2018: Correction in second paragraph.

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