There are a number of cellular interventions that were initially intended to solely treat inflammatory diseases but are now being utilized to treat multiple types of conditions. So, let’s take a look at these interventions to understand if more therapies will come from autologous, allogeneic, or modified cells, and to further appreciate where the cellular intervention field is headed.
Autologous Stem Cells
Personalized Stem Cells believes the answer to healing and longevity is held in our own stem cells (autologous). These cells carry minimal risk of immune rejection and we believe will provide the most effective treatments now and in the future. In other words, to have your own personal stem cell repair kit! This is due to their innate ability to differentiate into many different cells of a patient as well as the ability to self-renew. Their utility is essentially universal in the repair of human body. Autologous stem cells act as internal repair systems and their ability to replenish and form new cells is essentially unlimited.
Collecting fat and culturing cells from our own fat tissue requires considerable technical equipment and standardized processes. However, it is based on the 50-year-old liposuction and aesthetics medical field with plastic surgeons. Fortunately, the field has grown and has produced vastly improved equipment and new techniques to preserve, process, and expand cells for autologous treatments. As these procedures evolve and continue to succeed, it will only further encourage new technological developments that will better serve doctors and patients who understand the benefit of using their own cells.
Allogeneic Stem Cells
Allogeneic (donor-derived) stem cells are also a promising treatment because of their anti-inflammatory, immuno-modulatory, and tissue repair abilities. This means the patient is treated with cells from another person or donor. Their potential disadvantages are the variability of each donor’s cells and the risks of those cells carrying a infection (like Zika virus, AIDS, or COVID) causing immune rejection in patients. Because of this, many new approaches to suppress immune rejection are under development. The key advantages of allogeneic stem cells for regenerative medicine applications include the ability to create a large bank of doses to treat large numbers of patients from one cell line and the convenience and speed of the therapy being off the shelf, available whenever needed1.
Modified Stem Cells (iPSCs)
As the human condition evolves, we may also need more than our own cells to help us treat many of these ailments and diseases. Research has made tremendous progress by artificially modifying cells. This holds the promise of treating many diseases and medical conditions. Unfortunately, these modifications may induce unwanted consequences and must be studied carefully.
So, what are the risks in humans associated with modified cells, known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs)? Principally, it is that the retroviruses used in the generation of iPSCs have been associated with cancer. This is due to the fact that scientists insert DNA into a cell’s genome, which could trigger the expression of cancer-causing genes. There is also risk of immune rejection if modifications are made to donor cells. Some companies modify the patient’s own cells, avoiding the risk of immune rejection2. Continued studies are necessary before iPSCs become a safe therapeutic reality.
There have been major advances in cellular interventions and this work has led to improvements in autologous, allogeneic, and modified cell treatments for patients. However, for allogeneic and modified cells major issues remain to be addressed. We are hopeful that ongoing studies will resolve these issues so we can all take advantage of these promising cellular interventions in the future.