UniStemCell bank is the life science industry’s first collection of non-embryonic histocompatible human stem cells available for research and commercial use. International Stem Cell Corporation has developed a proprietary technique for creating histocompatible stem cells. The process called parthenogenesis uses unfertilized human eggs and results in the cells inheriting a duplicate set of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes. This significantly reduces the possibility of the derived cells being rejected by an individual’s immune system making a single cell line suitable for treating millions of individuals. A relatively small number of such cell lines could be sufficient to provide “immune matched” cells to a large percentage of the world’s population.
In the medium term, revenue could be generated from universal stem cell bank franchises across populations and scientists accessing these lines. This will provide additional validation of the hpSC lines as they will be tested and developed by others across a range of potential applications and, longer-term, will provide the company with royalty from sales of each successful, hpSC-derived cellular therapeutic.
When used for transplant-based stem cell therapies, stem cells are likely to face the same HLA matching issues that limit solid organ allogeneic transplants and lead to immune rejection. The risk of rejection is proportional to the degree of disparity between donor and recipient cell-surface antigen-presenting proteins.
Normally donor tissue is screened for antigens in order to determine the degree of histocompatiblity with the recipient at the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). The human leukocyte antigen (HLA) system is the term used for the human MHC and represents antigens important for transplantation. Matching donor and recipient tissue for HLA antigens greatly increases the likelihood of transplant survival. Parthenogenetic activation of human oocytes may be one way to produce histocompatible/HLA matched cells for cell-based therapy.