Could placenta-derived cells revolutionize age-related disease treatment?

By Isabel Cameron

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Related tags Senescent cells biotech Biotech companies Clinical trials

Celularity, a biotech company specializing in placental-derived allogeneic cell therapies, will be showcasing data at the upcoming ASGCT Annual Meeting, showcasing the potential of their off-the-shelf natural killer (NK) cells to combat age-related diseases.

Senescent cells, implicated in various age-related conditions, are targeted by Celularity's placenta-derived NK cells, which may serve as potent senolytic agents.

This approach, termed 'senoablation,' aims to eliminate aging cells, presenting an encouraging strategy in addressing age-related conditions.

The treatment has already shown promise, with pre-clinical data indicating that the company’s NK cells, CYNK-001, and genetically modified NK cells, CYNK-201, have the potential to target and selectively eliminate damaged and abnormal cells expressing stress ligands, such as senescent, virally infected and cancer cells.

Bio Pharma Reporter sat down with Celularity’s CEO and founder Dr. Robert Hariri, who outlined the potential of these therapies and the pressing need to innovate in the age-related disease space.

BPR: Why did you decide to target senescent cells?

Aging is inevitable but unhealthy aging might be addressable. With age, cells can become senescent, a state where they stop growing but do not die and continue releasing damaging inflammatory and tissue-degrading molecules. When a person is young, the immune system can readily eliminate senescent cells, often referred to as zombie cells. However, as we age, the immune system ages (immunosenescence) and may not respond and zombie cells accumulate and contribute to various age-related health problems and diseases. We believe that this is an addressable problem by harnessing the unique power of cellular medicines derived from the post-partum​ placenta to delay or even prevent some of the biological processes that contribute to aging.

Cellular senescence is an irreversible, age-related halt in cell division that serves dual roles in aging. Initially, cellular senescence acts as a tumor suppressant by preventing damaged cells from proliferating. However, as senescent cells accumulate over time, they transform into a senescence-associated secretory (SASP) phenotype and contribute to an environment through the secretion of pro-inflammatory chemokines that promote tumorigenesis or the gain of malignant properties in normal cells as well as other age-related pathologies. Moreover, senescent cells impede the process of normal, functional tissue regeneration and repair by ‘taking up space’ in aging tissues. This accumulation of senescent cells underscores the critical balance between the beneficial and detrimental impacts of senescence on the aging process. We are striving to restore this critical balance by removing accumulated senescent cells through a process we call senoablation to allow effective tumor suppression and mitigate the development of some age-related pathologies.

BPR: Are you encouraged by these trial results and what are the next steps for the company?

Celularity believes these data confirm the important, fundamental biological activity of its placental natural killer cell technology and support the strategy of employing a cellular therapeutic solution across a range of clinical indications, from cancer to inflammatory diseases to age-related degenerative disorders, by attacking a pathophysiological common denominator. There is a tremendous opportunity with a high level of unmet need for individuals and society. We will be engaging the regulators to identify the registration paths forward. 

BPR: What are the potential of these therapies?

Celularity has sought to deploy the inherent biological mechanisms resident in its cellular therapeutic technology against fundamental processes, such as the upregulation of stress ligands. Celularity is exploring a range of clinical indications. We have an exploding aging population, which should be celebrated. However, the underlying biology of aging is resulting in an epidemic of age-related diseases, including frailty, cognitive decline, infectious diseases, cancers, and numerous other degenerative diseases. While there have been significant treatment advances in the management of these conditions, to date, no company has addressed the fundamental underlying biology of aging. We believe we can harness the power of the young healthy placenta to delay or even prevent some of the biological processes and promote healthier aging.

BPR: What are the implications of Celularity’s approach in addressing age-related diseases?

The fundamental mechanisms at play in aging are common to the development of many diseases that pose significant societal burdens. Aging is a major risk factor for the development of degenerative disorders, cancer, and immune disorders. We believe healthy aging remains an important unmet need that can be addressed by utilizing the unique biology of our placental-derived cellular therapies, which exert both immunomodulatory and regenerative effects. Our placental-derived cells are allogeneic, meaning they are intended for use in any patient, as compared to autologous cells, which are derived from an individual patient for that patient’s sole use.

We believe this key difference will enable readily available off-the-shelf treatments that can be delivered faster, more reliably, at greater scale, and to more patients. By harnessing the placenta’s unique  biology and ready availability, we can develop therapeutic solutions that address the significant unmet global need for effective, accessible, and affordable therapeutics. Likewise, the advanced biomaterial products we develop from the postpartum placenta play a pivotal role in countering degenerative processes by promoting tissue repair, modulating inflammatory responses, and restoring homeostasis within degenerating tissues. Furthermore, biomaterials serve as scaffolds for cell attachment, proliferation, and differentiation that promote tissue regeneration and functional recovery.

The ASGCT Annual Meeting will take place on May 7 through 11, 2024, in Baltimore, U.S.

Related news

Show more