In January 2023, startup Rejuvenate Bio made news headlines with Cellular Reprogramming Extends Lifespan in Mice, Longevity Startup Says. They claimed to use cellular reprogramming to double the remaining lifespan of very old mice. Although at first, this sounds outstanding, the mice lived only 7% longer than expected and the method of treatment will not work in humans because the bacterial components would trigger an immune response.
So, what is cellular reprogramming and could it help you to live longer and healthier someday? How is it different from cell therapies?
What is Cellular Reprogramming?
Cell reprogramming is a technique that involves converting one type of cell into another type of cell, typically through erasure and remodeling of epigenetic marks. It differs from cell therapy which involves transplanting living cells to replace or repair damaged tissues and organs.
Both techniques have the potential to replace cells and tissues that are damaged or lost due to disease or injury. For example, cellular therapy has been used to regenerate damaged heart tissue in patients with heart failure, leading to small to modest improvements in their quality of life. Research is also being conducted on repairing spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s disease damage and diabetes by generating new neurons and insulin-producing cells.
Risks of Cellular Reprogramming and Cell Therapy
Unfortunately, with cellular reprogramming, there is potential for genetic mutations, which could lead to the development of cancer, tumors or other diseases. To mitigate this risk, researchers are developing ways to ensure the safety of the cells produced, such as rigorous testing and quality control measures. Researchers are also developing cells that have been genetically modified to prevent tumor formation.
Another risk is the potential for immune rejection, where the body’s immune system attacks the transplanted cells. To overcome this risk, researchers are exploring ways to “hide” the transplanted cells from the immune system or to induce the immune system to accept the transplanted cells by using stem cells that are derived from the patient’s own body.
Leading Cellular Reprogramming and Therapy Companies
There are several companies in the field of cellular reprogramming and therapy, each with their own areas of focus and levels of fundraising. Here are some of the leading companies in this space:
- Cellular Dynamics International, a subsidiary of Fujifilm, specializes in producing human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) at scale.
- Fate Therapeutics is focused on developing iPSC-derived cell therapies for cancer and immune disorders. The company has raised over $520 million in funding.
- BlueRock Therapeutics, a subsidiary of Bayer, is developing regenerative cell therapies using iPSCs for cardiovascular disease, neurology, and immunology.
- ViaCyte, acquired by Vertex, develops cell therapies for type 1 diabetes using encapsulated pancreatic progenitor cells derived from iPSCs. The company raised over $100 million in funding.
- Century Therapeutics is developing iPSC-derived cell therapies for cancer. The company has raised over $290 million in funding.
- EGenesis is developing xenotransplantation solutions using gene-edited pig cells. The company has raised over $190 million in funding.
- Sana Biotechnology is developing regenerative cell therapies using iPSCs for a range of diseases, including cancer and genetic disorders. The company has raised over $700 million in funding.
- Semma Therapeutics, also acquired by Vertex, is developing a cell therapy for type 1 diabetes using encapsulated pancreatic beta cells derived from iPSCs.
- Cynata Therapeutics is developing an iPSC-derived mesenchymal stem cell product for a range of inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. The Australian company has raised over $50 million in funding.
- Stemson Therapeutics is developing iPSC-derived hair follicle germs for hair regeneration. The company has raised over $7 million in funding.
- Celularity is developing cell therapies using placental-derived cells for cancer and autoimmune diseases. The company has raised over $570 million in funding.
- ElevateBio is a cell and gene therapy company that is developing iPSC-derived cell therapies for a range of diseases. The company has raised over $845 million in funding.
- Rejuvenate Bio is focused on developing gene therapies to reverse aging, and its founder, Dr. George Church is a prominent figure in the field of genetics and synthetic biology. Rejuvenate Bio’s approach involves using viral vectors to deliver gene therapies that can rejuvenate cells and tissues in the body. The company is initially targeting age-related diseases such as heart disease and osteoarthritis, with plans to expand into other areas of aging. Rejuvenate Bio has raised over $20 million in funding, and it has also formed collaborations with other companies in the field, such as BioAge Labs and Insilico Medicine.
The fundraising amounts listed above are approximate as of April, 2023.
For more companies and techniques in this space, see Keep Health’s Rejuvenation and Regeneration and Cell Health: Buy Into It articles.
Thanks for taking the time to read this article and focus on your health. Emerging techniques are showing promise. In particular, a few days after the Rejuvenate Bio news, University of Texas researchers announced their new study results that ultrasound wave therapy rejuvenates cells and could delay, stop, or even reverse the aging process. As your reward, take a few minutes to read their report. Hopefully, they are on to something meaningful.