FibroBiologics files for US patent of fibroblast technology to treat lupus

Fibroblasts share many characteristics of stem cells, such as immune modulation

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by Mary Chapman |

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A scientist conducts tests using a petri dish in a laboratory alongside a rack of four filled vials.

FibroBiologics, a biopharmaceutical company that seeks to develop and commercialize fibroblast cell-based therapies, has filed an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office covering the use of its technology to potentially treat lupus.

Using its proprietary fibroblast platform, the Houston-based company aims to develop cures and treatments for a number of chronic conditions, including lupus.

“Our scientists continue to explore clinical opportunities to treat chronic diseases using fibroblast cells, which are natural immune modulators,” Pete O’Heeron, FibroBiologics’ founder and CEO, said in a company press release. “Successfully leveraging fibroblasts to achieve a durable immune modulation may serve as a potential treatment for Lupus, a debilitating autoimmune disease.”

Lupus is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s healthy tissues are attacked by the immune system. This misdirected attack can affect many organs and cause a broad range of symptoms. Current treatments are designed to keep the immune system under control to minimize symptoms and prevent organ damage.

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Immune tolerance breaks down in people with lupus

While it’s unknown what exactly causes lupus, a key contributing factor is the breakdown of a phenomenon called “immune tolerance.” Normally, the immune system will attack anything that’s not recognized as being part of the body, while leaving healthy tissues unharmed. In lupus, this immune tolerance fails, and B-cells, which are a type of immune cell, make antibodies called autoantibodies that target the body’s own healthy tissues.

FibroBiologics’ technology seeks to leverage fibroblasts’ immune modulatory properties to ultimately create an environment that promotes immune tolerance.

“The immune modulation capacity of fibroblasts shows early promise in effectively regulating the expansion of pathogenic [disease-causing] immune cells and their expression [production] of harmful levels of cytokines, chemokines, growth factors, and complement factors,” said Hamid Khoja, PhD, FibroBiologics’ chief scientific officer.

Cytokines and chemokines are small proteins that play a key role in regulating immune cell function, growth, and survival. They have been implicated in several autoimmune disorders, including lupus.

“Fibroblast cells may offer a broad range of potential benefits for patients suffering from chronic disease,” Khoja said.

Fibroblasts, the primary cell type of connective tissue, are ultimately responsible for the structural integrity of the body’s tissues and organs. In addition to immune modulation, they also play a key role in tissue remodeling and wound healing.

In the human body, fibroblasts and stem cells are the only two cell types that can regenerate tissue and organs. Fibroblasts share many characteristics with stem cells, including the ability to give rise to new types of cells and to modulate activity of the immune system. However, fibroblasts lack the isolation, sourcing, and culturing limitations of stem cells.

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Fibroblasts easier to obtain than stem cells

Fibroblasts are easier to obtain than stem cells, since excess tissues from surgeries can be used as a source of connective tissue cells, according to FibroBiologics. Further, fibroblasts’ isolation from tissues is more streamlined and straightforward, and while costly additives are required for stem cells, they are not for fibroblasts.

“Our studies have proven fibroblasts to be more effective and more potent than stem cells in regeneration and immune modulation,” FibroBiologics stated on its website. “As the most common cell in the human body, fibroblasts are easier to source, culture, and differentiate into many different cell types …, making them an ideal candidate for use in clinical applications involving tissue regeneration. In addition, they are easier to maintain, and less prone to damage with cold-chain shipping logistics.”

FibroBiologics currently holds more than 150 federally and internationally issued or pending patents across multiple clinical programs, including those focused on multiple sclerosis, cartilage repair, degenerative disc disease, cancer, wound healing, and life extension.