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Implanted Tissue Shown to Produce Thyroid Hormones

Lab mouse

(Robert Owen-Wahl, Pixabay)

30 Jan. 2023. In a preclinical test, thyroid tissue earlier removed from lab animals was re-implanted in a protective pouch, which generates production of key hormones by the animals. Sernova Corp., a developer of regenerative cell therapy implants in London, Ontario, reported today on its web site results of the study, which are not yet peer-reviewed.

Sernova creates implanted devices made from live tissue and cells as long-term regenerative cell therapies for chronic diseases. The company calls its technology the cell pouch, a biocompatible immune-safe environment containing live tissue or cells that enable growth of surrounding blood vessels to deliver healthy proteins generated by the pouch. Sernova says it designs cell pouch therapies as alternatives to drugs needed regularly by people with chronic diseases.

In May 2022, Science & Enterprise reported on a joint venture by Sernova with Evotec SE in Germany to develop a cell pouch device containing beta cells producing insulin for people with type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks beta cells. An early- and mid-stage clinical trial is now evaluating the safety of this cell pouch in people with type 1 diabetes. The company says it’s also developing a cell pouch for hemophilia A, where individuals do not produce clotting factor 8 to prevent excessive bleeding.

In the new study, a Sernova and academic team is testing a cell pouch designed to replace a malfunctioning thyroid gland or for people who need their thyroid glands surgically removed. The thyroid is an organ in the neck and part of the body’s endocrine system producing hormones affecting a range of basic functions, including breathing, heart rate, body weight and muscle strength, nervous system, and menstrual cycles, among others.

Production of two key hormones

Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid is a condition where the thyroid does not produce enough of the needed hormones, resulting in a variety of symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, constipation, and muscle weakness. In addition, other diseases such as thyroid cancer may require removal of the thyroid. Sernova cites data showing some 150,000 people in the U.S. undergo thyroid removal surgery each year, requiring lifelong hormone replacement drug therapy.

Researchers in the new study pre-implanted cell pouches in lab animals for several weeks, then removed the animals’ thyroids and reinserted their thyroid tissue into the cell pouches. A comparison group also received empty cell pouches and had their thyroids removed, but received no replacement thyroid tissue. Both groups of animals were examined weekly and monitored for several months. Sernova does not identify which animal species is used, but a similar preclinical study by the company published last year tested in lab mice a cell pouch with human thyroid tissue.

The study team looked specifically for production of triiodothyronine and thyroxine, known as T3 and T4 respectively, two key thyroid hormones. The researchers say T3 and T4 levels in the test group animals given thyroid tissue in cell pouches first fell after thyroid removal, but later recovered to at least near-normal levels. In the comparison group animals, T3 and T4 levels also fell after thyroid removal, but remained below safe baseline levels.

“Along with previously published preclinical data that reported survival and function of human thyroid tissue transplanted into the cell pouch,” says University of British Columbia professor of surgery Sam Wiseman and lead author of that earlier preclinical study in a Sernova statement, “this preclinical study also supports the viability of Sernova’s cell pouch system approach and represents an important step towards establishing an entirely new treatment option for post-thyroidectomy hypothyroidism.”

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