Tracking Cellular Health via Clonal Hematopoiesis
5 Min. Read | December 3, 2020
We have noted before that genetic mutations you acquire as you age generally cause more disease than the few bad genes you may have inherited from Mom and Dad. This rings especially true for some genetic changes specific to your blood—the element of your body that is central to GoodCell’s mission: to extend and improve the quality of life through technology powered by our own cells.
Our blood stem cells and a few other blood cells can develop mutations that give them an advantage when they divide and make new cells. The cellular offspring of those early mutations become clones of the original and the drivers of a condition known as clonal hematopoiesis (CH, sometimes referred to as CHIP, or clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential). Rarely detected in people under 40, CH becomes increasingly common as we age and many studies link it to predispositions for blood cancers, cardiovascular disease, and other conditions associated with inflammation and autoimmunity. Of note, GoodCell currently has a study under way testing the theory that it also carries a predisposition to the most severe clinical outcomes associated with COVID19 infection.
That COVID study links our ability to measure both inherited and acquired genetic predispositions to disease. To detect CH, GoodCell applies cutting edge genetic analysis to next-generation sequencing (NGS) and microarray datasets to look for acquired variations in both genetic sequence and chromosome structure. We rely on both licensed technology and novel techniques for which we have filed patents.
Determining the presence of CH results in a measure of cell quality and predisposition to disease, which can impact both an individual, but also the myriad of uses for blood cells. Looking to the future, we expect to offer the chance to measure the quality of cells stored in our personal biobank and provide insight on cellular health to institutions or organizations when they are looking for the best possible donor for a patient who needs a stem cell transplant. The technology also offers the developers of new cell-based therapies the opportunity to choose the healthiest cells for starting material, to create the best method for making those cell therapies that induce the least amount of genetic change and the ability to set a quality standard/metric for release of manufactured therapeutic cell products, thereby reducing the cost of these emerging breakthroughs in care.
Individuals who find out they have CH should not immediately think dread and doom. A single gene variant often can’t cause disease by itself and may require additional genetic variants to have an impact. Knowledge of CH in your blood should provide a kick in the pants to be vigilant on health monitoring and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Some academic medical centers have begun offering special clinics to prevent the progression from mutation to illness. They emphasize early detection of cancers, and offer referrals to cardiologists to develop rigorous preventive care for cardiovascular disease.
These centers looking to prevent progression cite early stage research to eliminate the CH clones, discover biomarkers of progression, and development of clinical trials to respond to the predispositions. One particularly exciting study came out of Boston Children’s Hospital earlier this year – where with mice that had one CH mutation, they introduced a second genetic variation/change, the mice went on to develop leukemia. But if they treated the mice with a specific compound they did not develop the cancer.
Collectively, these research efforts are turning knowledge of CH into actionable health data. Combine that with GoodCell’s Inherited Genetic Predisposition test of 59 genetic variants known to be linked to disease—but with known options for healthcare and lifestyle interventions—and you will soon have ample opportunity to get ahead of your health.