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Regenerative Medicine in Colorado

How Researchers and Entrepreneurs are Advancing Human and Animal Health

From treating painful skin conditions in children with IPS cells to using stem cells to improve quality of life for injured people and their pets, Colorado boasts intense activity in the field of regenerative medicine. Academic and research institutions, bioscience companies and non-profits in the state all seek new ways to advance human and animal health by renewing or replacing damaged tissue or organs. The wide-ranging work across the state indicates that stem cell research and regenerative medicine will be a major focus for bioscience in Colorado in the decades to come.

Charles C. Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine

Gamna (Anya) Bilousova, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Dermatology at the Charles C. Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, heads a research program that aims to harness the regenerative power of induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cells for renewal and replacement of aging tissues and organs. With the assistance of colleague Igor Kogut, PhD, an instructor in the Department of Dermatology, Bilousova’s laboratory is also developing applications to ameliorate the debilitating effects of inherited genetic diseases like epidermolysis bullosa.

IPS cells represent a relatively recent advance in the field of stem cell research. By artificially inducing expression of a handful of specific genes in adult somatic cells, these cells can be reprogramed to revert to an immature, highly undifferentiated, genetically rejuvenated state with properties similar to those of embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Like ESCs, IPS cells can be propagated and expanded indefinitely in vitro and, in theory, be induced to differentiate into any cell type in the body with the goal of growing replacement tissues or organs to treat diseases or the degenerative effects of aging.

“We can take cells from a patient as old as 80 years of age, induce those cells to become IPS cells, and they revert to a rejuvenated phenotype,” says Bilousova. “In theory, we can potentially use these cells to grow entire, new, young organs, with improved functionality, that are specific to the patient the IPS cells came from.”

With more than 85 faculty members at the Anschutz Campus and from other institutions all over Colorado, state-of-the-art core facilities, and an advanced cGMP biomanufacturing facility, the Gates Center represents a central hub for translational research in the field of regenerative medicine in Colorado.

Colorado State University – Institute for Biologic and Translational Therapies

In Fort Collins, Colorado State University (CSU) received an anonymous $20 million donation in 2016 to fulfill its $65 million fundraising goal to begin construction on the new CSU Institute for Biologic and Translational Therapies. The center was originally launched in late 2014, with a $42.5 million gift—the largest cash gift in CSU history—from Denver-area philanthropists John and Leslie Malone.

The Malones originally became interested in stem cell research and regenerative medicine through their experiences with the Gail Holmes Orthopaedic Research Center at CSU, which helped them treat lameness in one of their world-class dressage horses through arthroscopic surgery and the use of stem cell injections. After endowing a chair in Equine Sports Medicine at CSU, they decided to broaden their focus, recognizing that research and advances in veterinary regenerative therapies, including stem cells, gene therapies, replacement tissues and organs, and novel proteins, would have extraordinary value not only for animals and their owners, but also for treating human disease, degenerative disorders and aging. The new Institute will serve as a nucleus for that kind of translational approach, in which discoveries in basic and preclinical research can develop in parallel for both veterinary and clinical applications.

Advanced Regenerative Therapies

The commercial potential of veterinary stem cell research at the Holmes Orthopaedic Research Center has been demonstrated by the spin-out of a commercial entity, ART (Advanced Regenerative Therapies, Fort Collins). ART was co-founded in 2007, by Dr. David Frisbie, PhD, and Dr. John Kisiday, PhD, both of whom are associate professors at the Center. The company provides bone marrow derived stem cell expansion services to veterinarians throughout North America to treat equine and canine musculoskeletal injuries and disorders.

Regennexx

Another Colorado company, Regenexx, located in Broomfield, Colo., also offers autologous bone marrow stem cell therapies, but their focus is on orthopedic procedures in humans. The company is a national network of musculoskeletal doctors specializing in the nation’s most advanced regenerative medicine protocols, developed and patented by Regenexx. The company has developed a family of medical procedures that use a person’s own stem cells and blood growth factors to help treat musculoskeletal injuries and degenerative conditions. Its physicians practice “Interventional Orthopedics” by providing non-surgical biologic therapies delivered with high accuracy through a needle.

AlloSource

The non-profit organization, AlloSource (Centennial, CO), represents another key player in regenerative medicine in Colorado. Founded in 1994, AlloSource started as a local, Denver-based tissue bank and has grown into one of the largest allograft providers in the country. Today, AlloSource’s work focuses on regenerative medicine and the potential power of cellular technologies, making the company the world’s largest processor of cellular allografts for transplant and the leading provider of skin allografts for burn survivors.

AlloSource recently launched ProChondrix, an osteochondral allograft for patients suffering from debilitating cartilage injuries. The product provides live functional cells and other biological components necessary for the repair and regeneration of damaged cartilage tissues.

With the overall aging of the population, both in Colorado and nationally, the demand for therapies for repair, restoration, rejuvenation and replacement of diseased or degenerating tissues and organs is growing. The healthy and expanding ecosystem of academic and commercial activity in this field suggests that our state will be well positioned to address this need.

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