BlueRock Therapeutics is a regenerative-medicine startup. Headquartered in Boston, its two lead programs are based in Toronto and New York City.
How it works
BlueRock’s approach is to take stem cells — cells that aren’t specialized yet — and turn them into a certain cell your body needs but might not make very well on its own.
Scientists have figured out how to do this using induced pluripotent stem cells. The process takes a person’s cells (blood, skin) and converts them into stem cells. From there, they can be turned into whichever cells are needed. These cells are allogeneic, which means they can be used off the shelf, rather than requiring a person’s own cells to be reprogrammed.
Say you have a heart attack. In the course of it, you lose hundreds of millions of muscle cells that won’t be replaced, and instead less flexible scar tissue forms on the heart, which can lead to patients needing a heart transplant.
At first, people thought it could be possible to just add some stem cells and grow some new heart muscle cells to replace the ones that had died. That didn’t work, though (…)
Instead, LaFlamme’s research team in Toronto is taking a different approach through injecting a billion heart-muscle cells (otherwise known as cardiomyocytes) that have been developed from stem cells. Ideally, this could help keep people from needing heart transplants.
While the heart and brain programs might seem like very different places to start, Davis said there is a common theme that unites all the programs BlueRock’s going after. Simply, BlueRock’s looking to develop treatments that are fully formed cells made from stem cells that can be used right off the shelf.
That means that the stem-cell therapies have to be converted into whatever cell they’re meant to be (heart-muscle cells, neurons, and so forth) before going into the body, rather than using different kinds of stem cells to treat the condition. And the cells have to be ones that aren’t easily made otherwise (…)