UC Davis and Aldagen, a North Carolina biotechnology company specializing in regenerative medicine, will investigate the potential of Aldagen’s stem cell technology for the treatment of stroke.
The collaboration was formalized in a memorandum of understanding earlier this month and represents the first time that researchers in the stem cell program at UC Davis will work with Aldagen.
According to the American Stroke Association, strokes affect nearly 800,000 people a year and are caused by clots (ischemic) or bursts (hemorrhage) in blood vessels that cut off the supply of oxygen to the brain. The resulting brain damage frequently leads to disability or death. Clot busting drugs are currently used to treat the more common ischemic stroke. They are effective if administered within three hours of onset, which is often too late for 95 to 97 percent of stroke patients.
Stem cells in adults that retain the ability to replenish specialized cells show promise in preclinical studies as a novel therapeutic approach to regenerate and repair damaged tissues including nerves and blood vessels.
Aldagen has developed a system that rapidly and effectively collects adult stem cells from patients‘ bone marrow and blood in sufficient quantities for therapeutic testing, according to the company‘s website. The system isolates active stem cells based on their high levels of a key marker called aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH).
Jan Nolta, a professor of hematology and oncology and director of the stem cell program at UC Davis, has worked with stem cells containing high levels of ALDH in her research for several years.
“They are a fascinating cell population that rapidly migrates to areas of [oxygen deprived] tissue damage and causes a dramatic enhancement of revascularization [new blood vessel formation] to the injured site,” she said.
Her lab, along with researchers at other universities and institutes, found that this homing and blood vessel regenerating process can restore blood flow to help repair damaged tissue in animal models of peripheral vascular disease and heart attack. Other research showed that ALDH-high stem cells can restore functioning nerves in mouse models of inherited human nervous system diseases.
Under the new collaboration with Aldagen, Nolta and Martha O’Donnell, a professor of physiology and membrane biology at UC Davis, will now lead a research effort to determine if ALDH-high cells will similarly restore blood supply to the brain in a rat model of ischemic stroke.
“Our work with Aldagen is just beginning, and it will take at least a couple more months for us to get some data for this very new project,” said O’Donnell in an e-mail interview, who established the stroke model.
“This is basic research so we can’t yet predict if it might lead to a future [human] trial,” Nolta said.
Aldagen has several early-stage clinical trials underway using isolated ALDH-high stem cells to improve function of damaged heart tissue in patients with chronic heart failure and to restore blood flow in the legs of patients with severe vascular disease.
“We do hope to work with them to bring their technologies to our patients when our facility in the new Institute for Regenerative Cures is completed,” Nolta said.
With support from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, construction of the new state of the art research facility at the UC Davis Medical Center campus in Sacramento will be completed in late 2009. Plans for clinical trials at the new facility include using stem cells to treat cardiovascular diseases, Huntington’s disease and retinal occlusion.
ELAINE HSIA can be reached at email@example.com.