Mercaptor Discoveries (Mercaptor), a company developing Captons™, neuroprotectants that become active exclusively at the site of injury, announced today that it will incorporate stem cells as part of their strategy of developing therapeutic programs to treat traumatic brain injury (TBI), CTE, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurodegenerative diseases of the brain. In addition, bringing stem cells into their strategy opens the door for treatments in brain tumors such as Glioblastoma (GBM).
As a platform technology, Captons have generated interest for a broad range of medical indications due to the many mechanisms which the technology brings to bear. These include immunosuppression, chemoattraction, anti-excitation, and anti-inflammation. Given the value that some of these mechanisms provide in facilitating stem cell-based tissue repair, the synergy between selected Captons and neuronal progenitor cells suggests a new way around the obstacles that continue to prevent the full realization of the stem cell promise. Such synergy adds to the significance that Captons continue to hold for medicine as stand-alone drugs.
Mercaptor aims to engage several well-established stem cell companies to achieve their objective of combining stem cell therapies with their proprietary Capton platform. Mercaptor will also partner with leading stem cell experts to help guide the development path forward.
“We have been speaking with experts to gauge the potential of combining Captons with stem cells. Their interest and enthusiastic responses have been overwhelming and humbling,” said Sara Isbell, CEO of Mercaptor.
Mercaptor Board member, Dr. Jim Kovach, M.D., J.D., has an extensive background in stem cells, including serving as Chief Operating Officer of Athersys Inc, a company developing MultiStem®, a patented, adult-derived “off-the-shelf” stem cell product platform, as President of the Buck Institute, where he championed stem cells to combat diseases of aging including neurodegeneration, as an advisor at CHA Health Systems in Korea where he advised on building a worldwide clinical center for stem cell therapy testing and in his current leadership role at UC Davis Health, home of Institute for Regenerative Cures.
Despite the enormous potential they represent, the hurdles to using stem cells successfully are manifold.
The first challenge researchers face when considering stem cell treatment is to understand the mechanisms by which stem cells function in the injured microenvironment using animal models, and then to translate the results of these studies to humans. Because Captons work on a chemical level, they translate across all organisms.
Another challenge is the efficiency of homing. Captons can address this by capturing the potency of well-known stem-cell chemoattractants into injury-activated forms, adding to the levels of such molecules naturally released from areas of tissue subject to damage and disease, thereby increasing the strength of distress signal gradients throughout the body and the response of stem cells guided by them.
The third challenge is preventing GvH rejection after stem cell transplantation. Particular Captons have been designed to capture a number of immunosuppressant effects, lessening the likelihood of rejection and facilitating engraftment of stem cells.
Finally, Capton molecules derived structurally from neuronal differentiation factors can be leveraged to improve the probability that engrafted stem cells will differentiate into the neurons they have been called upon to replace, instead of non-neuronal cells unable to restore function to areas of CNS damage.
To date, there is no evidence that stem cell therapy treats neuronal degeneration in humans. “Captons have the potential to advance the field by overcoming the hurdles that have to date limited the efficacy of stem cell therapies. Captons could transform the promise of stem cell-based medicine into a life-saving reality,” said Dr. Kovach.