New method makes it possible to transport medicine cells to areas affected by inflammatory processes


04.05.2009

Recent research conducted at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and the Germans Trías i Pujol Institute for Research in Health Sciences (IGTP) with the financial support of Grifols has led to the patenting of a new method for genetically modifying a specific type of blood cell. Using a nanotransporter, it is possible to insert therapeutic genes into the blood cells of patients with chronic inflammatory disease and to significantly improve function as a result.

This is possible because these cells naturally go to the inflamed areas, and the new nanotransporter system permits the selective transportation of medication to the areas affected by the inflammatory process, reducing the risk of undesired effects in the healthy areas of the organism.
The nanotransporter means that cells which have been extracted from the patient can be modified and converted into medicine cells which can be stored and readministered, either to combat attacks of the disease or as a preventive treatment in the event of relapses.

This discovery is the result of research conducted by Miguel Chillón (ICREA, UAB), Ester Fernández (UAB), Miquel Àngel Gassull and Adolfo Río (IGTP), within the framework of an agreement reached in January 2007, and was funded by Grifols, a Spanish business group which is a global leader in the plasma products sector and is listed on the IBEX35. This is evidence of how cooperation between research centres and private enterprise enables progress towards cell and gene therapy and towards the personalized therapy proposed as the medicine of the future.
As part of this cooperation, Grifols has signed an agreement with UAB, IGTP and ICREA on joint ownership of the resulting patent.



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About chronic inflammatory diseases:

Economic and social progress in the west has led to changes in the pattern of diseases, with infectious diseases becoming less prevalent over the last 20 years while chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease (an autoimmune disease) have become more common and are affecting younger age groups.

Although medicines are available to treat such diseases, these are palliative rather than curative. The chronic nature of these diseases means that they require continuous treatment, and this often leads to serious side effects, due to the drugs used and their effect on organs which are not affected by the disease. This has a serious impact on patients´quality of life, and places significant limitations on their autonomy and their inclusion in society and in the workplace.

Recent years have witnessed new approaches to medical science, exploring the possibility of converting the patient's own cells into producers of therapeutic molecules capable of acting in a specific, local, regulated manner.