Despite the ethical questions, the field of stem cell research has not slowed – particularly within the field of regenerative medicine where the potential for cellular regeneration to kickstart the body’s repair mechanism is huge.
But is it as simple as gathering stem cells, putting them into the human body and seeing how things go?
First let’s understand the balance within our bodies. Take for example bones, made up by the balance of two types of cell, osteoblasts (builders) and oesteoclasts (dissolvers).
If the body has excess osteoblasts it can lead to abnormal bone growth such as bunions through to Paget’s disease. And too many osteoclast cells can lead to bone degeneration conditions such as osteoporosis. Stem cells as the natural building blocks of the body could be used to tell the existing cells how they should be acting to get the balance back and avoid these issues.
While in principle this sounds good, when it comes to degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, neurodegeneration and cancer, these are complex conditions where imbalances in cell development and chronic inflammation need a more detailed and complete “message” to resolve these issues.
In short, and in keeping with the theme of the US election, rather than rely on multiple random and chaotic tweets from the President, what is required is a more detailed email explaining what each cell should be doing to ensure a harmonious operating environment.
The email – exosomes
In the 1990’s researchers identified that exosomes that secrete naturally from cells were not nanoparcel debris as first thought. Rather, exosomes are bioactive and have the specialised function of carrying messages to other cells in the body instructing them on how they should act.
So if exosomes could be harvested and then delivered to the specific area of the body that needs them, they could aid the body’s healing process.
Excitingly there is a listed Australian company at the forefront of this field of work. Exopharm is the owner of proprietary manufacturing technology called LEAP, which performs the exosome extraction and purification process.
The technology created by the company’s chief executive, Ian Dixon, is designed to complete the purification process and facilitate the mass production of pharmaceutical-grade exosomes.
The company has candidates in testing and development, ranging from wound healing to curing dry age-related macular degeneration. Further, it recently signed exclusive IP agreements for the delivery of engineered extracellular vesicles (EEV) which can be designed to carry specific cargos to target particular cells or tissue to cure illnesses.
From an investment perspective, the exciting thing that Exopharm offers is the potential for numerous products to be commercialised using its manufacturing process. It will seek licensing arrangements and partnerships with other parties to deliver their drugs at scale using Exopharm technology
Dixon is supported by a team with experience from big pharma, including Alison Mew, previously a senior manager at CSL and now director of manufacturing and development at Exopharm.
While all biotech firms at the pre-revenue stages carry risks, specifically