Cell-based Therapies: Adult Mesynchymal Stem Cells or Pericytes

Prof Arnold Caplan from the Skeletal Research Center, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland (Ohio) gave a talk on his pioneering research on stem cell-based therapies, at University of Pretoria on Wednesday, 15th September 2009.

Prof Caplan studied in Chicago and did his PhD in Baltimore. He started working at Case Western Reserve University in 1969 as an Assistant Professor, where he is now a Professor in the Department of Biology and the Director of the Skeletal Research Center. He is also the founder of Osiris Therapeutics Inc, but has since retired from the company. Osiris Therapeutics, Inc. is a leading stem cell therapeutic company focused on developing and marketing products to treat medical conditions in the inflammatory, orthopaedic, and cardiovascular areas. Osiris’ stem cell products have significant therapeutic potential because of their ability to regulate inflammation, promote tissue regeneration and prevent pathological scar formation.

Prof Caplan and his research partner Prof Stephen Haynesworth are working on Regenerative Medicines and Adult Stem Cell Therapy by looking at Mesynchymal Stem Cells (MSC) as they are involved in the regeneration of injured tissues, consequently reducing scarring. MSCs give rise to bone-forming cells, cartilage-forming cells and cells of tendon, adipose tissue, and dermis, as well as various connective tissues including the stroma of marrow. Through his studies, Prof Caplan has discovered that pericytes have the same markers and perform the same function as MSCs and concluded that pericytes are MSCs. Pericytes surround the outer walls of blood vessels and are involved angiogenesis as well as the stabilisation of these vessels, thus are important drug targets. MSCs or pericytes are an emergency repair and regeneration cell-therapy system, activated by tissue injury. They do this by creating a micro-environment that is anti-apoptotic, anti-scarring, angiogenic, mitotic, and immune-suppressing.

This basic knowledge of MSCs and pericytes that the Caplan team had gained was developed further and became the patented product by Osiris Therapeutics. The Osiris pipeline in stem cell therapy includes steroid refractory GvHD, Crohn`s disease, chronic obstructive diseases, Arthritis, and Multiple Sclerosis, just to mention a few. Treatment of such conditions will be done by infusion via standard intravenous or injection methods. Because of the immune-suppressive capabilities of MSCs, no adverse immunological effects have been reported in animal or human clinical studies. The expectations of this product are to offer patients access to the stem cell treatments in a timely, cost effective manner.

The Skeletal Research Center will also be running an exchange programme with University of Pretoria to offer students an MSc degree in biosciences with a 50% component linked to their Business School with the aim to train students in entrepreneurial skills to promote job creation and improve the quality of life through scientific discoveries.