Athersys, Inc. (NASDAQ:ATHX) announced hat multipotent adult progenitor cells (MAPC®), used in Athersys’ MultiStem® cell therapy currently in clinical development, are effective in improving the health of animals after acute rodent spinal cord injury. Intravenous administration of MAPC one day after injury prevented loss of spinal cord tissue resulting in significant improvement of walking function and urinary control.  These exciting new findings were published today in a peer-reviewed article in Nature’s Scientific Reports. 

Nervous system injuries, including spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury and stroke, result in excessive inflammation, which is toxic to surrounding healthy tissue.  Therefore, modulation of the immune system has long been an acute therapeutic target for neurological injury and disease. In this study, a single dose of MAPC was administered to rodents one day following severe spinal cord injury. Injured animals that received treatment demonstrated significantly improved voluntary control of bladder function, walking ability and preservation of at-risk nervous tissue. Further, the study defines a key mechanism of action of MAPC treatment, which occurs through the modulation of neuro-inflammation, including a significant reduction of inflammatory cell accumulation within the injury.

“The results described in this important publication build on and are consistent with previously completed preclinical and clinical studies in acute neurological injuries, including the Phase 2 study in ischemic stroke,” commented Dr. Robert Mays, Senior Vice President and Head of Neurosciences at Athersys. “The data show consistent mechanisms of action for MultiStem in targeting and modulating the immune system, and enhancing recovery and repair. Importantly, these results support our belief that the intravenous administration of MultiStem may lead to durable and substantial benefits in humans, which is consistent with our clinical observations in other programs. Athersys commends the outstanding work of Jerry Silver’s lab atCase Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and we look forward to additional progress that will enable the clinical translation of this therapy for spinal cord injured patients.”

The authors examined the biodistribution of MAPC cells following injury and observed that large numbers homed to the spleen, a primary reservoir for inflammatory cells in the body.  These findings are consistent with other evidence suggesting that a primary effect of this cell therapy occurs through modulation of systemic inflammation via splenic interactions. Close examination of the spinal cord injury site, peripheral blood, and the spleen identified meaningful changes in inflammatory pathways after MAPC administration.

This study builds on a decade-long collaboration between Athersys and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, led by Professor Jerry Silver, Ph.D., of the Department of Neurosciences.  Dr. Silver stated, “Spinal cord injury continues to devastate the lives of many. Although a great deal of research needs to be undertaken in the field, we are pleased to see that MultiStem therapy is efficacious in promoting the recovery of locomotor and urinary functions in rodents. I am especially excited with this therapy as it circumvents the need for directed therapeutic delivery into the vulnerable, recently injured spinal cord. We look forward to working with Athersys and other leaders in the science community to fill this critical treatment gap.”

This study provides additional strong support for the use of MultiStem as a therapeutic for human acute spinal cord injury with the overall goals of improving quality of life, motor control, and reducing long-term patient care costs. According to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, the cost of spinal cord injury is estimated to be from $500,000 to more than $3 million per patient, depending on severity. Donna Sullivan, Project Director for Unite 2 Fight Paralysis, commented, “We are excited by these results in rodent models of spinal cord injury, which demonstrate that MultiStem therapy may have the potential to enhance patients’ lives by improving critical locomotor and bladder functions. Improvement in these functions will reduce the many life threatening secondary conditions, which are a result of the loss of these functions. Unite 2 Fight Paralysis looks forward to additional opportunities to partner with this team of scientists to bring this cell therapy to the bedside.”

The research was coordinated by Dr. Sarah Busch and other Athersys scientists in collaboration with Dr. Jerry Silver, graduate student Marc DePaul, and other scientists from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, with grant support from The Ohio Third Frontier. (Original Source)

Shares of Athersys closed yesterday at $1.01. ATHX has a 1-year high of $3.43 and a 1-year low of $0.90. The stock’s 50-day moving average is $1.07 and its 200-day moving average is $1.18.

Athersys Inc is a biopharmaceutical company developing regenerative medicine. It is engaged in the discovery and development of therapies designed to extend and enhance human life.