Meet Ken Aldrich the co-founder of International Stem Cell Corporation

Welcome to this podcast. I am Ken Aldrich, Chairman and co-founder of International Stem Cell Corporation.

International Stem Cell Corporation recently announced that our scientific team, led by our Chief Scientist, Dr. Elena Revazova, has created a new class of human stem cell lines that do not involve the use of fertilized eggs and may enable hundreds of millions of people of different sex, ages and racial groups to benefit from cell based therapy with cells that will not be rejected by the patients own immune system after transplanting. The article was published in the on line edition of the well known peer-review publication, Cloning and Stem Cells on December 19, 2007

Since that time, we at International Stem Cell Corporation have received many questions about this discovery, most of which revolve around two basic questions: how are these cells different from what already exists and why does it matter? Since we are a public company that trades on the Bulletin Board--our symbol for those who are curious is ISCO.OB--a great deal of information about these questions has already been filed with the SEC and also been posted to our website, but I think a summary will be helpful, particular for those unfamiliar with the science of therapeutic cell implantation.

The 20th Century saw the development of whole organ transplants as a means to treat injury or diseases affecting the heart, liver, kidneys and other organs. The 21st Century has already seen the beginnings of a newer and even more promising therapy: the transplantation of human cells to enable damaged organs to begin functioning again on their own. Some of the new cell based treatments are quite advanced; others are in development, but all transplant programs to date share three basic problems:

  • First, the only source of organs or cells has been human donation, usually from cadavers, or cells derived from fertilized embryos. The need for cadavers has meant that only a tiny portion of the patients who needed cell or organ therapy could obtain a donation.
  • Second, until now, the only source of cells that had the potential produce cells in unlimited quantity for any organ of the body have been cells derived from fertilized embryos. That has raised religious and ethical questions that have hampered research and continue to do so.
  • Finally, all of treatments available so far require heavy use of immune suppressing drugs to prevent rejection of the new cells by the patient’s immune system.

That is why Dr. Revazova’s two recent discoveries are so important. They open the door to obtaining an unlimited supply of cells, without the use of cadavers or fertilized embryos, and that can be immune matched to hundreds of millions of patients so that that they will not be immune rejected after transplantation.

Our cell lines are known by the tongue twisting name of “Parthenogenetic HLA-homozygous” lines, and you can expect to be hearing a lot more in the months to come about Parthenogenesis, HLA matching and “homozygous” cell lines. However, the easiest way to think of what we are doing is to think of a blood bank in which a physician can find blood to match the need of any patient. HLA matching is more complex, but the concept is the same—provide cells that will not be rejected after transplanting.

To put that in perspective, if you are a 5 year old child whose immune system is still developing and you are diagnosed with a dreaded disease, there may cell transplant treatments already being tested or in use that might provide a cure, but they will be of no use to you because of the difficulty of finding a tissue match and the danger to a young child of taking large doses of immune suppressing drugs. The drugs could be far more dangerous to a child than the disease itself.

We have just taken the first giant step toward solving that problem.

Our cells also have great potential in the treatment of genetic disorders such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, and many others because we can provide cells from cell lines that do not carry the same genetic defects, but that is a complex subject that is better left to a later discussion.

There is still much work to be done to make cell based therapy available to all who could use it and no one company can do it all. That is why, although our scientists are the only people in the world who have perfected a technique for creating parthenogenetic HLA-homozygous cells, we have filed patents that describe how such cells can be created so that we can share with others the secrets of how to do it. Our goal is to work with researchers throughout the world to assure that, in time, no person who could be helped by a cell transplant need ever go without that help because there were not enough cells available that were compatible with his or her immune system.

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