The implementation of electronic systems in the human body has led to numerous medical progresses, but cell therapy-based clinical trials have shown serious adversities such as tumour formation and the transmission of infectious agents. The Optogenerapy project addresses this urgent clinical need for safe cell-based protein delivery therapies and applies the results for improving the quality of life of patients suffering from Multiple Sclerosis.
The Optogenerapy IFN-ß drug therapy is generated by cells confined within a chamber sealed by a porous membrane, that allows the device to be easily implanted or removed. At the same time, this membrane acts to prevent immune rejection and offers long-term safety in drug release, using biocompatible polymeric materials with optical and barrier functionalities. To predict the optogenetic pathway activation and IFN-ß delivery, the Optogenerapy team will develop a controller tool to be used by health professionals.
Optogenetics is the combination of genetics and optics techniques to control and monitor activities of cells in a living tissue with light. In this technology cells have to be genetically modified to become light-sensitive. When they are illuminated with light of the correct frequency, cells are activated to perform as expected.
Optogenetics has been employed successfully in the past to enhance our understanding of the Parkinson disease and similar disorders and its potential as a safe cell therapy for multiple diseases havs been explored. The Optogenerapy team will use optogenetics technology to develop an implant with light-sensitive cells with the mission to create and release IFN-ß protein once activated by light.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease with more than 2.3 million people affected worldwide. MS attacks the central nervous system – brain and spinal cord – and in many countries is the leading cause of non-traumatic disability in young adults. Multiple Sclerosis is the most common demyelinating disease, in which the body’s immune system attacks myelin, the substance that surrounds and protects the nerve fibres of the central nervous system, forming scar tissue and distorting or interrupting the nerve impulses travelling to and from the brain and spinal cord.
While symptoms may be mild and some people with MS experience little disability during their lifetime, as many as 60% may be unable to walk without assistance 20 years after onset. This has major implications for the quality of life of people with MS and their families and friends, and for the cost to society if their condition is not managed adequately.