The Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) has signed a licensing agreement with the Spanish biotech company Histocell to make use of a patent for the treatment of acute pulmonary diseases with mesenchymal stem cells. These cells, administered intravenously, have the ability to go directly to the damaged lungs, acting as a "smart drug".
To enhance the effect, researchers have modified this cells by genetic engineering. The studies have been developed by a team led by Josep Maria Aran, researcher at the Human Molecular Genetics group of IDIBELL, with researchers of the Pneumology group at Vall d'Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) and the Biomedical Research Network Centre for Respiratory Diseases (CIBERES). The outcomes of the research have supposed an international patent application managed by the Technology Transfer Office (TTO) at IDIBELL.
The researchers use adult mesenchymal stem cells extracted from adipose tissue obtained from liposuction. These cells are capable of enhancing the regeneration of the damaged lung tissue and secrete inflammatory proteins therein when injected into the blood.
The novelty patented by IDIBELL, VHIR and CIBERES researchers has been the insertion of improvements through genetic engineering that can significantly enhance the anti-inflammatory and regenerative power of the mesenchymal cells. Specifically, researchers have modified the antagonist to secrete interleukin 33, a regulatory protein (cytokine) that has a fundamental role in the inflammatory process.
The treatment has proven to be very effective given intravenously, although it could be considered the option of administering it by inhalation.
In the administered dose, these stem cells do not involve immune rejection, because the body removes them after their function is performed. This makes them particularly useful for treating acute diseases.
The licensed product to Histocell has been successful in experiments on animals with acute respiratory distress, a very severe respiratory failure without effective treatment. It has also been proven effective in animal models with allergic asthma to persulfate salts, a condition equivalent to a professional disease detected among professional hairdressers. The researcher Josep Maria Aran stresses that the new technology could also have applications in other acute and even chronic conditions such as emphysema.
In any case, many years will be needed before the product can be applied in humans. It will require additional preclinical studies and clinical trials in people. In this sense, the patent licensed to Histocell is essential to complete these studies and bring the product to market.
Get to market
The head of the TTO at IDIBELL, Montse Ballarín, highlights the fact that "the licensed products developed at our institution reflect the IDIBELL strategy as a public research centre, to bring our ideas and inventions to market and, ultimately, to develop products at the service of society”.
Histocell is a biopharmaceutical company based in the Basque Country (Spain) specialised in tissue engineering and in cell therapy. The company is dedicated to developing innovative products in the field of regenerative medicine. It has a cleanroom for developing cell therapy products based on tissue engineering. The company has four therapeutic programs: bone and joint regeneration, neuroprotection in spinal cord injury and pulmonary therapy.
The development of the patent transferred to Histocell has been possible thanks to the funding of the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, the Instituto de Salud Carlos III and the European funds for regional development (ERDF).