What Are the Best Cells to Store for Future Therapies?

3 Min. Read | October 27, 2021

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Younger Cells and Blood Cells Work Best

Estimates suggest that one in four Americans will develop a disease during their lifetime that may be treated with cell therapies that could come to market within five years based on current clinical trials. Perhaps it’s time to think about banking some cells for when today’s science becomes tomorrow’s medicine.

Nearly all of those clinical trials involve cells derived from blood—blood-forming stem cells, T-cells and progenitor cells that can easily be turned into induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs). Years of research on all those cell types suggest that the younger the cell the better. They get their intended job in the body done better and they have fewer mutations, which accumulate over time.  GoodCell’s personal biobank stores all three types of cells.

Therapies known at CAR-T cells have revolutionized treatment for some intractable blood cancers. In the earliest trials for these therapies at the University of Pennsylvania, the researchers only treated young patients because their more robust and active T cells would be more likely to produce an early, easy to show result.

For some blood cancers, blood stem cell transplant has become a routine procedure, with more than 1,000 cancer patients receiving this therapy every year. For many patients, because of the nature of their cancer, they can’t receive their own stem cells and need to use those of a donor. In this situation, physicians seek out the youngest possible donor for the best possible chance to cure their patient.

Research from a team at Loma Linda University added hard evidence to what stem cell transplant doctors had seen. In the Journal of Experimental Medicine, they wrote: “there is now compelling evidence that the aging process has a deleterious effect on stem cells, and that the aging effects on stem cells may play essential roles in the pathophysiology of the various aging-associated diseases.”

The most versatile of stem cells are iPSCs. They can be turned into any cell type that might be needed to repair or replace damage caused by disease. Theoretically, any adult cell can be “reprogrammed” to become an iPSC. Early research in the field tended to make them from fibroblasts, skin cells obtained from a small biopsy. But most teams have switched to endothelial progenitor cells from blood. Researchers at Cambridge University in England showed in 2012 those cells could be programmed to become iPSCs much more efficiently than skin.

Many groups have looked into the impact of the age of the donor cells used for iPSCs and found that it impacts some aspect of the iPSC process more than others.  Younger cells seem to reprogram more efficiently, but older cells that do reprogram still seem able to make various types of tissue pretty efficiently. The problem remaining with those older cells is mutations accumulated over time. Researchers at Scripps Research Institute reported in 2016 that donor age is definitely associated with an increased risk of abnormalities.

The first clinical trial in the U.S. using cells made from iPSCs has demonstrated the value of using blood as the source as well as the impact of age. Kapil Bharti leads that trial for patients with vision loss due to Age Related Macular Degeneration at the National Institutes of Health. He explained how they have refined their process in a recent webinar hosted by the publication EndPoints. They had tried using skin cells from the patients, but they found blood cells produced stem cells that were much more genetically stable. They also found that cells from younger patients were more stable than those from older patients.

As you get older your cells do as well. The best cells you will ever have are the least damaged cells you have today. Learn about how you can plan for the future by personal biobanking your cells with GoodCell, here.

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