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Biotech breakthrough in immune response cells

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A Japanese biotech firm has developed a new form of stem cell aimed at reducing the body’s immune rejection response.

Healios has created ‘universal donor cells’ (UDCs) using gene-editing technology that allows them to reduce the body’s immune rejection response.

The development will allow for the creation of regenerative pharmaceutical products with a lower risk of immune rejection, while preserving the inherent ability of the cells to replicate themselves continuously.

UDCs are induced pluripotent stem cells created using gene-editing technology that allows them to reduce the body’s immune rejection response.

Their production involves the removal of certain genes that elicit a rejection response, the introduction of an immunosuppression gene to improve immune evasion, and the addition of a suicide gene serving as a safety mechanism.

Healios plans to combine its UDC technology with its existing efforts in next-generation cancer-targeting immune cells to create a line of regenerative medicine therapies with the highest possible safety and efficacy profile.

Typically, transplanted cells trigger an immune rejection response in patients whose human leukocyte antigen (HLA) type does not match that of the cells.

HLA is an important molecule expressed in all human cells that is involved in how the immune system functions.

Any substance in an individual’s body with an HLA type that differs from the individual’s own is recognised as a foreign substance, which triggers an immune response that rejects and attacks that substance. Therefore, ensuring a match of HLA types is extremely important in organ transplantation.

Therefore, doctors must administer an immunosuppressant drug during transplantation, which increases the burden on the patient’s body.

To avoid the administration of immunosuppressants, it is preferable to utilise autologous iPS cells produced by the patient’s own cells, but the production process both takes a long time and is very expensive.

Healios pioneers regenerative medicines in Japan, using gene-modified stem cells (iPSCs) to develop regenerative treatments in immune-oncology cell therapies targeting solid tumors and liver diseases, and ophthalmology.

It was established in 2011 and to date has raised over US$330 million in funds to support its growth and development.

The Company has been listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange since 2015.

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