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Biotech Licenses mRNA Technology for Aging

Hands of older person

(Steve Buissinne, Pixabay)

13 Jan. 2021. A biotechnology enterprise is licensing research from Stanford University on messenger RNA to produce proteins that rejuvenate cells damaged by aging. Turn Biotechnologies in Mountain View, California is acquiring the rights to discoveries by the company’s founders that the company says can be developed into treatments for a number of aging-related conditions.

Turn Bio is a three year-old company founded by Stanford University researchers on cell biology and aging, discovering treatments for disorders that result from effects of aging on cells. The company’s technology aims to reprogram the epigenome, chemicals originating from outside the human genome, but added and still affect expression of genes.

The main vehicle for Turn Bio’s epigentic reprogramming is messenger RNA, a nucleic acid based on the genetic code from DNA, and used by cells to produce amino acids in proteins for cellular functions. Messenger RNA became well known recently for its key role in vaccines to prevent against Covid-19 infections. In this case, messenger RNA is created to generate proteins called Yamanaka factors that regulate signaling in embryonic stem cells.

These same proteins, says Turn Bio, can restore functionality to different cells and tissue in the body affected by aging. In a paper published in March 2020 in the journal Nature Communications, similar proteins generated by messenger RNA are shown in lab cultures to reset the epigenetic clock, restore a regenerative response to aging muscle stem cells, and reduce inflammation in cartilage cells. At the same time, say the authors, cells retain their original identities.

The study was led by Vittorio Sebastiano, a research professor in Stanford’s Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. Sebastiano is one of Turn Bio’s founders, along with first author Jay Sarkar and co-author Marco Quarta. Sarkar is Turn Bio’s chief technology officer, while Sebastiano and Quarta serve as scientific advisers to the company.

Turn Bio is licensing the processes described in the paper from Stanford for the company’s technology called epigenetic reprogramming of age, or ERA. “The ability to precisely control a cell’s rejuvenation,” says Sarkar in a company statement released through Cision, “means we will be able to turn back the clock on cellular vitality, effectively restoring cells’ ability to heal or regenerate damaged tissue. Our research offers promise to people suffering from age-related diseases for which there are currently no cures.”

Turn Bio has several products in preclinical development that apply ERA technology to various cells and tissue affected by aging. TRN-001 is designed to treat damaged skin and hair tissue as a single integrated target as a therapy for skin frailty, sun damage, hair loss, hair color loss, and aesthetic issues such as wrinkles and skin texture. A separate product, code-named TRN-003, aims to restore protective cartilage in joints and reverse joint damage.

Turn Bio’s TRN-004 is designed to rejuvenate tissue in the cornea and limbus in the eye, to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress experienced in glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and dry eye syndrome. The company’s TRN-005 aims to reduce fraility and loss of age-related muscle mass that leads to injuries.

“ERA technology is an extremely powerful platform and can be used to treat a variety of diseases throughout the body,” says Anja Krammer, Turn Bio’s CEO. “The steps we have taken ensure that the fruits of our research can benefit millions of people around the world.”

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