The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a grant of approximately $500,000 to VistaGen Therapeutics and NuPotential to accelerate development of novel and safer approaches to generate patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells.

It is hoped that the grant will help to develop safe new alternatives for regenerative medicine, drug discovery and drug rescue using pluripotent stem cells, which can differentiate into any of the more than 200 types of cells in the human body.

Most approaches to produce human induced pluripotent stem cells use retroviruses to activate or express multiple key genes, including an oncogene that is associated with production of cancer cells.

However, the use of retroviruses and oncogenes are potentially problematic for clinical use due to the significant increased risk of inducing a cancer transformation.

NuPotential’s cell reprogramming technology could represent a dramatic improvement in the safety profile of induced pluripotent stem cells cells because it uses proprietary small molecule-based cell reprogramming processes for generating patient-specific cells instead of commonly used retroviruses or cancer-inducing oncogenes.

This will be combined with VistaGen’s versatile Human Clinical Trials in a Test Tube platform, which involves the use of integrated stem cell technologies and validation processes associated with the function and utility of pluripotent stem cells to produce human heart, liver, pancreas and blood cells.