For many years, researchers and pharmaceutical companies have been investigating the use of cell-based therapies to treat, or even cure, some of the world’s most debilitating diseases. For some diseases, such as leukemia and lymphoma, the results have been game-changing. But for other diseases such as osteoarthritis, the injection of stem cells into arthritic joints has been inconsistent and often disappointing.
Microencapsulation and Cell Therapies
Core-Shell Spherification™: a shield and delivery option for all types of cell-based treatments
The Delivery System
If cells are injected directly into the body, they don’t stay in the injected region long and they are quickly identified as “foreign” and are attacked by the recipient’s immune system. Coating cells with a hydrogel enables nutrients, proteins, small-molecules, and other essential chemicals to freely diffuse through the gel to the cells, maintaining their viability and function while holding them in a target location in the body. Alginate and alginate-based materials have been the most popular material for use because of simple manufacturing characteristics. However, time and time again, no matter how many modifications are made to the alginate and its backbone, these formulations continue to fail clinically.
For most cell therapies, two components are necessary; the cells and the delivery system. While many companies are working on creating useful cells for a variety of diseases, only a handful of companies have created effective delivery systems and only Likarda has a library of them.
Think of aspirin. Its active ingredient, acetylsalicylic acid, is a horrible tasting powder that would be very unpleasant to swallow. But when mixed with inactive ingredients, it forms a tablet that is easier to administer and helps the drug function better in the body. These inactive ingredients comprise the delivery system. Similarly, cells need a system to deliver them and enhance function in their intended location. Likarda’s disruptive technology has both the cells and a superior delivery system. Likarda’s technology is so advanced that companies developing their own advanced cell therapies partner with Likarda to incorporate our coating technology to further increase their cell therapy success.
Core-Shell Spherification® (CSS) is Likarda’s patented formulation technology that coats (encapsulates) cells and cell clusters using hydrogels that were once thought to be unavailable for microencapsulation. Core-Shell Spherification® (CSS) is specifically designed for advanced hydrogels with much slower gelation rates compared to alginate. Examples include hyaluronic acid and PEG-based hydrogels. These hydrogels are already successfully used in areas including wound healing, dermal fillers, and cosmetic applications. For the first time, with Likarda’s breakthrough technology, it’s possible to produce microspheres with a wide variety of chemical, physical, and bioactive properties in a cell friendly fashion. Tuning the formulations allows control of microbead size, degradation rates, and cell loading densities, providing a wealth of opportunity to create successful cell-based therapeutics.
Likarda maintains a library of over 50 different hydrogel formulations developed using Core-Shell Spherification®. We know that each cell therapy is different and requires unique properties to thrive. For example, neurons may require different hydrogel chemistries compared to stem cells. To enable the precise environment that each cell type requires, Likarda’s scientists optimize the hydrogel specifically for the individual cells thus enhancing the different therapeutic applications. Likarda has created multiple options in categories of hydrogels including durable or degradable formats.
For applications where you require maintaining the transplanted cells in the location as long as possible, a durable delivery system is desirable. This allows the cells to secrete their regenerative factors while protecting them from the hosts immune system. An example of its use would be delivering insulin-producing cells for the long-term treatment of diabetes.
For applications that require the cells to interact with the surrounding tissue or engraft in the local area, a degradable delivery system is desirable. The hydrogel can be tailored to release the cells locally over several days, weeks, or months, as the therapy requires. When used to treat osteoarthritis, the cells can be injected into the joint so that the natural regenerative capacity of the cells and the body can interact.
Hydrogel microbeads don’t always need incorporated cells to instill health-promoting properties. Some examples include long-lasting lubricants or cosmetic fillers. For example, these soft microbeads can serve as replacements for joint lubrication in cases such as osteoarthritis. The degradable version can also be utilized during surgery where adhesions may be a problem.
Leveraging our proprietary cell integrity and delivery platform, Likarda is partnering with cell therapy companies to design and optimize compatible hydrogel formulations for their cell systems.
In addition, Likarda is developing its own cell therapies for specific disease applications. We have partnered to obtain the starting cells including induced pluripotent stem cells, multipotent stromal cells or fully differentiated cells in developing a pipeline of options. For our cell therapy to fight diabetes, we have developed a unique differentiation protocol to transform stem cells into insulin-producing cells, which are then encapsulated and transplanted to reverse hyperglycemia. Think of it as an alternative way to provide insulin, but by implanted cells making the insulin rather than daily insulin shots.
Do you have a challenge you’re trying to overcome with your cells? Explore ideas with an expert on our team. Customizing hydrogel formulations is what we do best.
Whether we’re working with our business partners or developing our own novel cell therapies, our unique process remains the same—advance the cell therapy by optimizing the hydrogel, maintaining the cell viability and choosing the appropriate delivery systems. By using this innovative manufacturing processes our families, friends and furry pets will all have options to overcome their chronic diseases.
What Our Partners Say
– Orthopedic Surgeon
– Multinational Animal Health Company
– Cell Therapy Company