NeoStem plans to take over Stem Cell Technologies to expand its position in the adult stem cell collection and storage arena and the field of regenerative medicine. The stock-for-stock transaction entered into with parent company, Utek, will give NeoStem access to a worldwide exclusive license to a methodology for the identification and isolation of particular stem cells from adult human bone marrow, which have been shown to be similar to embryonic stem cells.
Developed by researchers at the University of Louisville, these stem cells are called VSELs (very small embryonic-like) stem cells. “We have both purified and identified at a single-cell level an adult counterpart of embryonic stem cells that is present in adult bone marrow,” according to Mariusz Z. Ratajczak, M.D., Ph.D., a co-inventor of this technology. “We believe these cells are a real alternative to embryonic stem cells for obtaining a population of histocompatible, pluripotent stem cells for regenerative purposes.”
NeoStem says that once this technology is developed, it will be able to harvest and cryopreserve these pluripotent VSELs from individual patients. The company’s aim is to use the technology in personalized regenerative medicine.
VSELs have several physical characteristics that are generally found in embryonic stem cells, according to the companies. They also grow in the laboratory and multiply into clusters of cells that can then differentiate into specialized cells, the firms add.
“The potential exists,” notes Dr. Ratajczak, “for the isolated VSELs to differentiate into specified cells that could be given to a patient where they would interact within the specific organ in order to repair degenerated, damaged, or diseased tissue, the three D’s of aging.”
This technology may also break through the current limitations of stem cell therapies, points out Wayne Marasco, M.D., Ph.D., chairman of NeoStem’s scientific advisory board. The two biggest issues the VSELs could get around, he notes, are the ethical dilemma over using human embryonic stem cells and the immunological problems associated with using stem cells from a donor.
NeoStem will also support further research at the University of Louisville laboratory of Dr. Ratajczak, under a sponsored research agreement.