New Stem Cell Technology to Improve Drug Safety

2009.04.16

iPS cardiomyocytes used in a novel cardiotoxicity assay

Drug side effects are a major problem for the drug industry. Even very rare events, when serious enough, can warrant drug withdrawal. Unfortunately, until a drug has been used by thousands of patients, these rare events can be impossible to predict.

Identifying drugs that can trigger heart attacks before they reach the clinic is a major focus of ReproCELL. Current tests, especially at early stages of drug development, tend to focus on one aspect of heart cell function – the hERG ion channel. But there are a whole range of other ion channels, as well as other possible issues, which hERG tests miss. ReproCELL has developed the QTempo assay to screen all cardiac ion channels and significantly reduce the chances of a cardiotoxic drug getting anywhere near a patient.

The QTempo test uses beating heart cells grown in a dish from stem cells. Similar to an ECG, these cells are attached to electrodes to measure their electrical activity as experimental drugs are added. Until recently, ethical issues surrounding human embryonic stem cells, had restricted QTempo to monkey heart cells. Now, under a license agreement between ReproCELL and iPS Academia, a human cell version is available. This is the first ever commercial test using iPS technology.

ReproCELL CEO, Chikafumi Yokoyama, commented “Drug companies usually prefer to see in-vitro data from human cells. Basing the test around human heart cells increases the relevance of QTempo. Not only will the improved test help to save patients lives, it will help reduce the huge amounts of effort drug companies waste on developing drugs that are later withdrawn”.

iPS Academia, KYOTO, JAPAN, was established to license iPS technology developed in the Kyoto lab of Shinya Yamanaka. iPS (induced Pluripotent stem cell) is a revolutionary new way of making embryonic-like stem cells from adult tissue.

ReproCELL, TOKYO, JAPAN, offers stem cell-focused products and services to researchers and health professionals. ReproCELL products are used in many of the world’s leading stem cell labs and were used in the development of the world’s first human iPS cells. ReproCELL has applied its stem cell expertise to the development of pre-clinical and clinical diagnostic tests to improve the development of drugs and monitoring of patients.