An Australian stem cell company called Cynata Therapeutics Limited is in the process of developing a therapeutic stem cell platform technology that they called “Cymerus.” The idea for Cymerus originated at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but Cymerus would generate a protocol by which clinical laboratories could produce very immature mesenchymal stem cells from induced pluripotent stem cells. Such cells would be personalized for patients and their needs, and Cynata’s goal is to produce a platform that is economically feasible and relatively fast so that patients can receive infusions of the cells they so badly need in a timely fashion. These are very ambitious goals to say the least, but Cynata has been hacking away at this problem for some time, and we certainly wish them the best.
Cynata has recently released some very encouraging data in which their personalized mesenchymal stem cells were used to treat laboratory animals with a laboratory-induces form of asthma. Briefly, female mice (BALB/c mice for those who are interested) were injected with a yolk-protein called “ovalbumin.” Ovalbumin is a protein found in egg whites, and because it is an egg-specific protein, mice do not have it and their immune systems have never seen it before. Such an injection causes the mice to mount an immune response to the ovalbumin, and these mice are then administered aerosolized ovalbumin by means of a nebulizer. This causes the animals to develop a rather severe asthmatic attack against ovalbumin.
In this study, Cynata scientists and their collaborators used 48 mice that were divided into six different groups. The first group was untreated animals that did not suffer from ovalbumin asthma. The second group contained eight animals that had no asthma but were treated intravenously with one million mesenchymal stem cells. The third group also had no asthma, but were treated with an intranasal infusions of one million mesenchymal stem cells. The fourth group contain eight asthmatic animals that were untreated during the course of the experiment. The fifth group contain eight asthmatic animals that were treated intravenously with one million mesenchymal stem cells. The final group contained eight asthmatic animals that were treated with intranasal infusions of one million mesenchymal stem cells. As a note, all animals that were treated mesenchymal stem cells were treated three times. So-called airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) is a measure of the sensitivity and irritability of the bronchial tissues. AHR is an important measure of the tendency of the lungs to undergo constriction during an asthma attack and AHR is usually measured by administering a drug that can cause bronchoconstriction. The greater the degree of bronchoconstriction in such an experiment is indicative of great AHR. The successful treatment of asthma results in reduction in AHR.
The results of this experiment were wonderfully successful. Exposing mice to the ovalbumin caused them to exhibit significantly increased AHR. However, intravenous administration of Cynata’s MSCs in asthmatic animals caused a statistically significant (60-70%) decrease in AHR compared to untreated, sensitized animals. Additionally, intranasal administration of Cynata’s MSCs completely normalized AHR. The AHR in these asthmatic mice was brought down to a level that was largely the same as the non-asthmatic mice. Also, importantly, no adverse side effects were observed during the study.
This study was conducted under the supervision of Associate Professor Chrishan Samuel and Dr. Simon Royce from the Department of Pharmacology at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. Because the features of this model asthma system closely resemble the clinical manifestations of asthma in humans, these results provide excellent evidence that such a treatment stands a chance of working in human patients.
“We are very excited by these results, which indicate that Cymerus™ MSCs could have a profound effect in the treatment of asthma. This is a debilitating condition, which affects about 10% of the population, resulting in close to 40,000 hospitalizations and several hundred deaths each year, in Australia alone,” said Cynata Vice President of Product Development, Dr. Kilian Kelly. “Although a number of drugs are approved for the treatment of asthma, studies have shown that conventional treatments result in as few as 5% of asthma patients achieving full control of their condition. Consequently, there is a widely recognized need for novel treatments that address – and potentially eliminate – the underlying disease”, added Dr. Kelly.
“This study has clearly demonstrated that Cynata’s MSCs have a dramatic effect on AHR in our model, particularly when directly administered into the allergic lung. We look forward to continuing our analysis of the effects of these unique cells on markers of inflammation and airway remodeling, and we are optimistic of building on the very positive data we have generated so far,” said Associate Professor Samuel.
Asthma is a condition characterized by the inflammation, narrowing, and swelling of the airways, accompanied by excessive mucous production that makes it difficult to breathe. According to the Global Asthma Network, asthma affects over 330 million people globally. Cynata had partnered with Monash University to examine the potential of its Cymerus technology as an alternate treatment for asthma sufferers.
Cymerus™ makes us of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) that are then differentiated into a specific type of mesenchymal stem cell precursor known as a “mesenchymoangioblast” or MCA. Cymerus potentially provides a source of MSCs that can be made for so-called “off-the-shelf” therapeutic uses.