Theracell is in the process of developing novel therapies for the effective treatment of several diseases. These therapies make use of Adipose-Derived Stem Cells (ADSCs) and a special class of nanoparticles, referred to as Superparamagnetic Iron Oxide Nanoparticles (SPIONs). SPIONs have recently attracted the interest of the scientific community, due to several attributes, such as their paramagnetism and their potential us in a number of therapeutic approaches.
SPIONs are small synthetic γ-Fe2O3 (maghemite), Fe3O4 (magnetite) or α-Fe2O3 (hermatite) particles with a core ranging from 10 nm to 100 nm in diameter. In addition, mixed oxides of iron with transition metal ions such as copper, cobalt, nickel, and manganese, are known to exhibit superparamagnetic properties and also fall into the category of SPIONs. However, magnetite and maghemite nanoparticles are the most widely used SPIONs in various biomedical applications. SPIONs have an organic or inorganic coating so that they can be tolerated by cells and tissues.
These particles exhibit the phenomenon of “superparamagnetism”, i.e., on application of an external magnetic field, they become magnetized and on removal of the magnetic field, they no longer exhibit any residual magnetic interaction. This superparamagnetism, unique to nanoparticles, is very important for their use as drug delivery vehicles because these nanoparticles can literally drag drug molecules to their target site in the body under the influence of an applied magnet field. Moreover, once the applied magnetic field is removed, the magnetic particles retain no residual magnetism at room temperature and hence are unlikely to agglomerate (i.e., they are easily dispersed), thus evading uptake by phagocytes and increasing their half-life in the circulation. Moreover, due to a negligible tendency to agglomerate, SPIONs pose no danger of thrombosis or blockage of blood capillaries.
The current research on SPIONs is opening up broad horizons for their use in the biomedical sciences. They have been used for both diagnostic as well as therapeutic purposes. In magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), SPIONs have been used as targeted magnetic resonance contrast agents, allowing diagnosis of progressive diseases in their early stages. From a drug delivery point of view, targeting of cancer is the most pursued area, with emphasis on delivery of chemotherapeutics and radiotherapeutics. However, increasing applications of SPIONs have also been found in the areas of gene delivery, cell death with the help of local hyperthermia, and delivery of peptides and antibodies to their site of action.
The process developed by Theracell, begins with the internalization of SPIONs in the stem cells, using as a route a transfection agent mediated internalization by poly-L-lysine (PLL). This endocytic process, gives to stem cells superparamagnetic properties, meaning that on application of an external magnetic field, they become magnetized and their movement can be handle it using the magnetic field.
Theracell is currently developing two novel therapies based on nanobiotechnology: