Home Interviews Scientific Advisor on the potential of Cline’s cell therapy for cartilage damage

Scientific Advisor on the potential of Cline’s cell therapy for cartilage damage

Cline cartilage damage

Scientific Advisor on the potential of Cline’s cell therapy for cartilage damage

15 March, 2024

Cline Scientific is developing a stem cell-based treatment for early cartilage damage to avoid the development of osteoarthritis. BioStock has spoken to the company’s scientific advisor Mats Brittberg to gain insight into the treatment field, as well as how he views Cline’s innovative project.

One of the major physiological challenges of healing damaged cartilage is that it, unlike other tissues, lacks blood vessels. For example, with a muscle injury, there is initial bleeding, then a blood clotting mechanism kicks in, leading to the growth of new cells replacing those of the damaged tissue. On the other hand, with a cartilage injury, no bleeding occurs, thus the area remains void of the repair mechanism, unless the damage reaches deep into the bone tissue.

Many injuries are of medium depth and do not heal. According to Professor Mats Brittberg, scientific advisor to Cline Scientific, over time, these injuries can increase in size, leading to  mechanical issues and pain caused by inflammation and incongruence in the joint.

Pioneer in cartilage repair

– The joints are very dependent on an elastic fine movement with low friction, and if unevenness is created, the risk of injury increases, Professor Brittberg tells BioStock. If the cartilage damage goes all the way down to the bone where we have many nerves, it can lead to pain, while the injury is further aggravated.

Professor Brittberg has dedicated most of his career to research in the field. In the late 1980s, together with a research team at the University of Gothenburg, he became the first in the world to carry out a new type of repair of local cartilage damage in the form of cartilage cell transplantation.

– Our research team was the first to take cartilage from patients to isolate the cartilage cells enzymatically. We then cultured these cells in the patient’s own serum to increase their number. This meant that we could then implant the matured cartilage cells in the patient’s local cartilage lesions, says Brittberg and continues:

– The result was cartilage tissue of good quality. This autologous technology has now been around for almost 40 years and has evolved gradually over the years.

Investment in allogeneic cells

However, a major limiting factor with this technique is the use of the patient’s own (autologous) cartilage cells, of which there are a limited number. One branch of development in the field is to instead use cartilage cells from a general cell source, so-called allogeneic cells.

– One potential problem with allogeneic cells, however, is that they may cause an immune response. This can be avoided by transplanting them enclosed in a surrounding material. If you use young cells, so-called juvenile chondrocytes originating from stem cells, the risk of the immune reaction is very low. This is why there is a great deal of interest in cultivating large amounts of allogeneic cells, according to Professor Brittberg.

Aiming for high quality at a lower cost

And this is where Cline Scientific comes in. The company has developed a patented nanotechnology that enables a controlled and precise differentiation and development of stem cells. The company’s main project, StemCART, aims to develop an allogeneic stem cell product for the regeneration of cartilage in human joints, for local treatment of early cartilage damage that may risk developing into osteoarthritis.

– The starting point is to ensure a source of cells of good quality from which large quantities can be grown. The advantage of this approach is that you ensure that all patients receive the same quality cells, and that you can grow these cells on a large scale and thus reduce the cost. The latter is extremely important to make the treatment method available to large patient groups, says Professor Brittberg and continues:

– If the cartilage damage is small, it’s generally not that problematic for the patient. However, small injuries can become larger over time, and in the case of major injuries, in addition to the purely pain-inhibiting effect, the joint’s equilibrium can be disturbed. The new repair method can then restore the equilibrium of the joint. The goal of Cline Scientific is to heal cartilage damage through implants, in other words, for the technology to be able to form cartilage. If you can then also manufacture cells in large quantities, the price will be lower than today’s treatments, which ultimately leads to more patients treated, less suffering and reduced costs to society.

Aiming for phase I

StemCART is currently in preclinical development, where the product is being developed, validated and undergoing safety testing in preparation for clinical trials in humans. The company recently announced the results of three major experimental campaigns, where it sought to find a suitable starting dose of cells. The starting dose has now been defined, and the company has also seen signs that the desired cartilage generation had been achieved.

The next step will be to combine cells and a gel-like matrix in a 3D format before implantation. According to Cline, this will simplify implantation, shorten the timeline and streamline the process between cell culture and implantation. The long-term goal is to offer healthcare a scalable and reliable treatment for patients with damaged cartilage, thereby reducing patients’ suffering, improving their mobility and avoiding the development of osteoarthritis.

The content of BioStock’s news and analyses is independent but the work of BioStock is to a certain degree financed by life science companies. The above article concerns a company from which BioStock has received financing.

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