Intrifuge and CellXpansion
Regenetech has built upon it's licensed NASA technology to create a thriving intellectual property business that is providing researchers with the tools to make adult stem cell therapy viable for the public. Adult stem cells are found in some types of body tissue that can differentiate into a specific range of specialized cells; which in turn makes them appealing possibilities for treating diseases. There are about 70 different conditions where bone marrow stem cells have been used to regenerate tissue or treat disease.
In the mid-1980s, NASA researchers at Johnson Space Center were investigating the effects of long-term microgravity on human tissues. At the time, the Agency’s shuttle fleet was grounded following the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and researchers had no access to the microgravity conditions of space. To provide a method for recreating such conditions on Earth, Johnson’s David Wolf, Tinh Trinh, and Ray Schwarz developed that same year a horizontal, rotating device—called a rotating wall bioreactor—that allowed the growth of human cells in simulated weightlessness. Previously, cell cultures on Earth could only be grown two-dimensionally in Petri dishes, because gravity would cause the multiplying cells to sink within their growth medium. These cells do not look or function like real human cells, which grow three-dimensionally in the body. Experiments conducted by Johnson scientist Dr. Thomas Goodwin proved that the NASA bioreactor could successfully cultivate cells using simulated microgravity, resulting in three-dimensional tissues that more closely approximate those in the body. Further experiments conducted on space shuttle missions and by Wolf as an astronaut on Mir space station demonstrated that the bioreactor’s effects were even further expanded in space, resulting in remarkable levels of tissue formation.
In 2002, Houston-based biotechnology firm Regenetech Inc. (then called BioCell Innovations) acquired the licenses for the NASA bioreactor and a number of related patents for use in the burgeoning field of adult stem cell research. The problem with adult stem cell harvest is getting enough of the cells to have therapeutic value, which is where Regenetech’s Intrifuge cellXpansion technology comes to bear. Regenetech’s Intrifuge rotating wall bioreactor cradles a soup can-sized, rotating chamber that is used to expand, or multiply, harvested stem cells. They multiply rapidly (50–200 times in size in as few as 6 days) into healthy populations, providing a quicker and cheaper source of stem cells for therapy or medical research. The company is currently engaged in sponsored research agreements with major universities to develop stem cell therapy for type 1 diabetes, study blood stem cells, and create stem cell veterinary orthopedic treatments using the company’s Intrifuge cellXpansion technology. Through an agreement with NASA, Regenetech is also able to offer significant help to researchers pursuing treatments of rare diseases that affect less than 200,000 people in the United States and thus do not offer enough return on drug development investment.