At Convalesce Inc. we have taken a holistic approach of regenerative medicine combining stem cells with brain mimetic hydrogels laden with specific biochemicals. The hydrogel matrix is able to provide the stem cells both the physical and bio-chemical cues that are required for differentiation or generation of neurons from stem cells. The combination of stem cells with the gel-based matrix enhances its survival and prevents its ectopic migration in the brain post-transplantation.
Parkinson’s is caused by the degeneration of dopamine producing neurons in a specific region of the brain known as the substantia nigra. The degeneration of these neurons leads to depletion of dopamine that is manifested in the physical symptoms of a Parkinson's patient. Current treatment just provides symptomatic relief by replenishing some of the dopamine through medications. As this kind of symptomatic treatment does not stop the progression of the disease, the patient eventually stops responding to dopamine treatments. Growing stems cells into new neurons is equivalent to putting a dopamine machine in the degenerated region. We expect this to restore function, reducing tremors and improving balance and movement initiation.
We have engineered all the desired properties of an implantable hydrogel in our proprietary gel matrix. Our hydrogel is made from self-assembling peptides that organize into nanofibers that closely mimic the fibrils present in the natural extracellular matrix of our body. Besides being non-toxic and non-inflammatory there are multitude of advanced properties, that makes our product superior and easy to use. For example, the hydrogel, being self-healing in nature, could be used in minimally invasive surgeries. The physical act of injecting them into the brain, through a syringe, puts shear stress on the gel and causes it to transform to a liquid. Once inside the brain, it fills up tissue voids/lesions of any geometric size/dimension and subsequently gets converted back into the gel state.
Stem cells are special types of cells that could be signalled to grow into any type of specialized cell, to perform organ specific functions. Our hydrogel is soft with a stiffness comparable to natural brain tissue. Thus, when stem cells are encapsulated in our hydrogel, they recieve distinct physical signals that leads their growth to neurons. Also, the specific topography of the gel comprising nanofibers is part of the signalling. Additionally defined biochemical growth factors could be added to the gel if deemed necessary for a targeted differentiation. However, the brain is already a reservoir of growth factors; the hydrogel absorbs certain growth factors, and its structure regulates their exposure to the stem cells. These combination eventually provide the encapsulated stem cells both the physical and biochemical cues necessary for differentiating to neurons.