Living Cell Technologies (LCT) is a Australasian biotechnology company with offices in Australia and New Zealand. One of the products pioneered by LCT is NTCELL; a capsule coated with alginate (a porous compound extracted from seaweed) that contains clusters of choroid plexus cells from newborn pigs. NTCELL transplantation allows them to function as a biological factory that produces growth factors and other small molecules that promote new central nervous system growth and repair disease induced by nerve degeneration.
The choroid plexus is the structure in the brain that produces cerebrospinal fluid. These cells also filter wastes from the brain and keeps the brain free of debris and other potentially deleterious material. Choroid plexus cells not only produce cerebrospinal fluid, but also a range of neurotrophins (nerve growth factors) that have been shown to protect against neuron (nerve) cell death in animal models of disease.
Several papers have reported on the use of implanted NTCELL capsules in animal model systems. Luo and others used NTCELLs in nonhuman primates that suffered from chemically induced Parkinson’s disease. This paper reported that the transplanted encapsulated choroid plexus clusters significantly improved neurological functions in these monkeys with Parkinson’s disease (J Parkinsons Dis. 2013 Jan 1;3(3):275-91). An earlier paper also showed that implanted improved the neurological function of rodents with a chemically induced form of Huntington’s disease (Borlongan CV and others, Cell Transplant. 2008;16(10):987-92).
On the strength of these successful animal studies, LCT launched human clinical trials in patients with Parkinson’s disease. On December 15th of last year, LCT announced that the final patient had been successfully implanted in its Phase I/IIa clinical trial of regenerative cell therapy NTCELL for Parkinsons disease. These implantations required a minor surgical procedure, which took place at Auckland City Hospital
This Phase I/IIa clinical trial is being led by Dr. Barry Snow, and is an open-label investigation of the safety and clinical effects of NTCELL in Parkinson’s patients who no longer respond to current therapy. Dr. Snow is the leader of the Auckland Movement Disorders Clinic at the Auckland District Health Board but is also an internationally recognized clinician and researcher in Parkinson’s disease.
These patients will be carefully tracked for improvements in the control of movement and balance. LCT hopes to present the results on this clinical trial, which will last 29 weeks) at the 19th International Congress of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders in San Diego in June 2015.
Dr Ken Taylor, chief executive, notes that the success of the implant procedure means that the time scale for the LCT clinical program remains intact.
“The treatment phase of the trial has been completed on schedule. We believe NTCELL has the potential to be the first disease-modifying treatment for patients who are failing the current conventional treatment for Parkinson’s disease,” said Dr Taylor.
Even though this Phase I/IIa clinical trial is meant to test the efficacy of NTCELL in Parkinson disease patients, NTCELL also has the potential to be used in a number of other central nervous system indications such as Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and other types of diseases that affect motor neurons.