Rutgers’ Nanotechnology Research Might Help with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Other Diseases
Researchers at Rutgers University-New Brunswick recently published research about a nanotechnology platform that helps identify what happens to specific stem cells.
Stem cells are key building blocks that can differentiate into all the different types of cells in the body, including brain cells and heart cells and skin cells. Increasingly, researchers are utilizing adult human-induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to develop drugs and work on therapies.
The researchers monitored the creation of neurons from human stem cells by identifying next-generation biomarkers called exosomes. Exosomes are particles released by cells and they play a critical function in cell-to-cell communication.
“One of the major hurdles in the current cell-based therapies is the destructive nature of the standard cell characterization step,” stated senior author KiBum Lee, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. “With our technology, we can sensitively and accurately characterize the cells without compromising their viabilities.”
The technology platform utilizes minuscule nanotubes for sensing. Specifically, the authors reported using a “multifunctional magneto-plasmonic nanorod (NR)-based detection platform.”
The platform successfully detected the expression level of miRNA-124 and characterized the creation of human iPSC neural stem cells. They then showed its function in a rodent model.
Nanotubes are an area of increasing interest. Researchers at Texas Heart Institute (THI) recently used bio-compatible nanotubes invented at Rice University to restore electrical function to damaged hearts.
“Instead of shocking and defibrillating, we are actually correcting diseased conduction of the largest major pumping chamber of the heart by creating a bridge to bypass and conduct over a scarred area of a damaged heart,” stated Mehdi Razavi, a cardiologist and director of Electrophysiology Clinical Research and Innovations at THI. Razavi co-led the study with Matteo Pasquali, a chemical and biomolecular engineer at Rice University.
The new research, published in the journal Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology, showed that the nanotubes worked in restoring function to the heart in laboratory animals, and they worked with or without a pacemaker. In the lab rats, the electrical signal conduction disappeared when the fibers were removed.
iPSCs are also a hot area of research. Last week, Bayer AG acquired BlueRock Therapeutics. Bayer was part of the 2016 joint venture with Versant Ventures to found BlueRock, which was launched with a $225 million Series A financing round.
BlueRock is focused on developing induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). The company’s most advanced program is for Parkinson’s disease, which it expects to enter into the clinic in the U.S. by the end of this year. It is also working on other indications in neurology, cardiology and immunology.
This deal reinforces Bayer’s interest in iPSC research. In April, Leaps by Bayer, the company’s investment arm, teamed with Khloris Biosciences to develop novel, first-in-class anti-cancer vaccines based on human iPSCs. The idea is that because human iPSCs have a genetic match to the recipient, but can’t replicate, they can be used as vaccines by modifying them and injecting them into the patient, where it will activate the immune system to attack the cancer.
In July, Bayer invested in Century Therapeutics, another Versant Ventures-founded company. Century is using iPSCs to develop allogeneic or off-the-shelf immune cell cancer therapies. Bayer invested $215 million of the $250 million financing commitment.
The Rutgers researchers believe that their platform may assist researchers working on stem cell transplants, as well as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative and central nervous system diseases and injuries.