VIRxSYS Awarded Maryland Stem Cell Grant
News Jun 16, 2009
VIRxSYS Corporation has announced that the company has received a grant from the Maryland Stem Cell Research Commission to develop safer methods for induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS) using the company’s proprietary spliceosome-mediated RNA trans-splicing (SMaRT™) and lentiviral gene delivery platform technologies.
“Our research proposes to use VIRxSYS’ proprietary technology for safer derivation of iPS cells, using a delivery system that does not permanently modify the genome of the cell,” said VIRxSYS President and CEO Riku Ratsoula. “We are deeply honored that the Marlyand Stem Cell Research Commission selected our work for this grant.”
iPS cells have the unique ability to develop into different cell types in the body. They have potential therapeutic applications for the regeneration of damaged organs or replacement of defective tissues with genetically corrected stem cells.
The breakthrough iPS discovery essentially reprograms differentiated cells, (cells which are specialized for a particular function such as skin or hair follicle), converting them into iPS cells. These pluripotent stem cells have many potential clinical applications.
iPS cells can be patient-specific and used as cell or gene-based therapies for diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, type I diabetes, and cancer. Therefore, iPS cells generated from patients with genetic diseases can be corrected for the genetic defect and then used to replace the damaged tissue or regenerate new tissue for damaged organs.
“Current methods to derive iPS cells include elements that may cause adverse effects,” said Ratsoula. “We believe that our proprietary technologies can circumvent these issues. This grant will allow us to develop and optimize these safer and more efficient methods of iPS generation.”
iPS cells are derived by expressing four “pluripotency factors” in differentiated cells. These factors are expressed using gene delivery systems that integrate within the DNA of the cells, leaving the possibility that they may be reactivated to produce the factors inappropriately. Instead, VIRxSYS lentiviral vector delivery system will result in only transient expression of these factors, which will eventually be lost as the cells divide and grow, which is deemed to be safer.
In addition, VIRxSYS’ SMaRT™ technology will link the expression of these pluripotency factors to genes which are turned on only at the relevant stage of reprogramming, and then shut off once iPS are generated.