Posts Tagged ‘regulation’

CD-4 Therapy for Solid Tumors

Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP


CD4 T-cell Immunotherapy Shows Activity in Solid Tumors

Alexander M. Castellino, PhD

For the first time, treatment with genetically engineered T-cells has used CD4 T-cells instead of the CD8 T-cells, which are used in the chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell approach. Early data suggest that this CD4 T-cell approach has activity against solid tumors, whereas the CAR T-cell approach so far has achieved dramatic success in hematologic malignancies.

In the new approach, CD4 T-cells were genetically engineered to target MAGE-A3, a protein found on many tumor cells. The treatment was found to be safe in patients with metastatic cancers, according to data from a phase 1 clinical study presented here at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) 2016 Annual Meeting.

“This is the first trial testing an immunotherapy using genetically engineered CD4 T-cells,” senior author Steven A. Rosenberg, MD, PhD, chief of the Surgery Branch at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), told Medscape Medical News.

Most approaches use CD8 T-cells. Although CD8 T-cells are known be cytotoxic and CD4 T-cells are normally considered helper cells, CD4 T-cells can induce tumor regression, he said.

Louis M. Weiner, MD, director of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University, in Washington, DC, indicated that in contrast with CAR T-cells, these CD4 T-cells target proteins on solid tumors. “CAR T-cells are not tumor specific and do not target solid tumors,” he said.

Engineering CD4 Cells

Immunotherapy with engineered CD4 T-cells was personalized for each patient whose tumors had not responded to or had recurred following treatment with least one standard therapy. The immunotherapy was specific for patients in whom a specific human leukocyte antigen (HLA) — HLA-DPB1*0401 — was found to be expressed on their cells and whose tumors expressed MAGE-A3.

MAGE-A3 belongs to a class of proteins expressed during fetal development. The expression is lost in normal adult tissue but is reexpressed on tumor cells, explained presenter Yong-Chen William Lu, PhD, a research fellow in the Surgery Branch of the NCI.

Targeting MAGE-A3 is relevant, because it is frequently expressed in a variety of cancers, such as melanoma and urothelial, esophageal, and cervical cancers, he pointed out.

 Researchers purified CD4 T-cells from the peripheral blood of patients. Next, the CD4 T-cells were genetically engineered with a retrovirus carrying the T-cell receptor (TCR) gene that recognizes MAGE-A3. The modified cells were grown ex vivo and were transferred back into the patient.

Clinical Results

Dr Lu presented data for 14 patients enrolled into the study: eight patients received cell doses from 10 million to 30 billion cells, and six patients received up to 100 billion cells.

This was similar to a phase 1 dose-finding study, except the researchers were seeking to determine the maximum number of genetically engineered CD4 T-cells that a patient could safely receive.

One patient with metastatic cervical cancer, another with metastatic esophageal cancer, and a third with metastatic urothelial cancer experienced partial objective responses. At 15 months, the response is ongoing in the patient with cervical cancer; after 7 months of treatment, the response was durable in the patient with urothelial cancer; and a response lasting 4 months was reported for the patient with esophageal cancer.

Dr Lu said that a phase 2 trial has been initiated to study the clinical responses of this T-cell receptor therapy in different types of metastatic cancers.

In his discussion of the paper, Michel Sadelain, MD, of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York City, said, “Although therapy with CD4 cells has been evaluated using endogenous receptor, this is the first study using genetically engineered CD4 T-cells.”

Although the study showed that therapy with genetically engineered T-cells is safe and efficacious at least in three patients, the mechanism of cytotoxicity remains unclear, Dr Sadelain indicated.

Comparison With CAR T-cells

CAR T-cells act in much the same way. CARs are chimeric antigen receptors that have an antigen-recognition domain of an antibody (the V region) and a “business end,” which activates T-cells. In this case, CD8 T-cells from the patients are used to genetically engineer T-cells ex vivo. In the majority of cases, dramatic responses have been seen in hematologic malignancies.

CARs, directed against self-proteins, result in on-target, off-tumor effects, Gregory L. Beatty, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, indicated when he reported the first success story of CAR T-cells in a solid pancreatic cancer tumor.

Side effects of therapy with CD4 T-cells targeting MAGE-A3 were different and similar to side effects of chemotherapy, because patients received a lymphodepleting regimen of cyclophosphamide and fludabarine. Toxicities included high fever, which was experienced by the majority of patients (12/14). The fever lasted 1 to 2 weeks and was easily manageable.

High levels of the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) were detected in the serum of all patients after treatment. However, the elevation in IL-6 levels was not considered to be a cytokine release syndrome, because no side effects occurred that correlated with the syndrome, Dr Liu indicated.

He also indicated that future studies are planned that will employ genetically engineered CD4 T-cells in combination with programmed cell death protein 1–blocking antibodies.

This study was funded by Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health. The NCI’s research and development of T-cell receptor therapy targeting MAGE-A3 are supported in part under a cooperative research and development agreement between the NCI and Kite Pharma, Inc. Kite has an exclusive, worldwide license with the NIH for intellectual property relating to retrovirally transduced HLA-DPB1*0401 and HLA A1 T-cell receptor therapy targeting MAGE-A3 antigen. Dr Lu and Dr Rosenberg have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) 2016 Annual Meeting: Abstract CT003, presented April 17, 2016.


Searches Related to immunotherapy using genetically engineered CD4 T-cells


Genetic engineering of T cells for adoptive immunotherapy

To be effective for the treatment of cancer and infectious diseases, T cell adoptive immunotherapy requires large numbers of cells with abundant proliferative reserves and intact effector functions. We are achieving these goals using a gene therapy strategy wherein the desired characteristics are introduced into a starting cell population, primarily by high efficiency lentiviral vector-mediated transduction. Modified cells are then expanded using ex vivo expansion protocols designed to minimally alter the desired cellular phenotype. In this article, we focus on strategies to (1) dissect the signals controlling T cell proliferation; (2) render CD4 T cells resistant to HIV-1 infection; and (3) redirect CD8 T cell antigen specificity.
Adoptive T cell therapy is a form of transfusion therapy involving the infusion of large numbers of T cells with the aim of eliminating, or at least controlling, malignancies or infectious diseases. Successful applications of this technique include the infusion of CMV-or EBVspecific CTLs to protect immunosuppressed patients from these transplantation-associated diseases [1,2]. Furthermore, donor lymphocyte infusions of ex vivo-expanded allogeneic T cells have been used to successfully treat hematological malignancies in patients with relapsed disease following allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant [3]. However, in many other malignancies and chronic viral infections such as HIV-1, adoptive T cell therapy has achieved inconsistent and/or marginal successes. Nevertheless, there are compelling reasons for optimism on this strategy. For example, the existence of HIV-positive elite non-progressors [4], as well as the correlation between the presence of intratumoral T cells and a favorable prognosis in malignancies such as ovarian [5,6] and colon carcinoma [7,8], provides in vivo evidence for the critical role of the immune system in controlling both HIV and cancer.
The key to successful adoptive immunotherapy strategies appears to consist of (1) using the “right” T cell type(s) and (2) obtaining therapeutically effective numbers of these cells without compromising their effector functions or their ability to engraft within the host. This article is focused on strategies employed in our laboratory to generate the “right” cell through genetic engineering approaches, with an emphasis on redirecting the antigen specificity of CD8 T cells, and rendering CD4 T cells resistant to HIV-1 infection. The article by Paulos et al. describes the evolving process of how to best obtain therapeutically effective numbers of the “right” cells by optimizing ex vivo cell expansion strategies.
Our laboratory’s overall strategy and flow plan for development and evaluation of engineered T cells is depicted in Fig. 1. We work almost exclusively with primary human T cells; little or no work is performed with conventional established cell lines. Thus, we benefit substantially from our close association with the UPenn Human Immunology Core. The Core performs leukaphereses on healthy donors 2–3 times a week, and provides purified peripheral blood mononuclear cell subsets, ensuring a constant influx of fresh human T cells into our laboratory. We have extensive experience in developing both bead- and cell-based artificial antigen presenting cells (aAPCs), as described in detail in the article by Paulos et al. The ability to genetically modify T cells at high efficiency is critical for virtually every project within the laboratory. We have adapted the lentiviral vector system described by Dull [15] for most, but not all, of the engineering applications in our laboratory.
CD4 T cells are the primary target of HIV-1, and decreasing CD4 T cell numbers is a hallmark of advancing HIV-1 disease [34]. Thus, strategies that protect CD4 T cells from HIV-1 infection in vivo would conceivably provide sufficient immunological help to control HIV-1 infection. Our early observations that CD3/CD28 costimulation resulted in improved ex vivo expansion of CD4 T cells from both healthy and HIV-infected donors, as well as enhanced resistance to HIV-1 infection [35,36], ultimately led to the first-in-human trial of lentiviral vector-modified CD4 T cells [37]. In this trial, CD4 T cells from HIV-positive subjects who had failed antiretroviral therapy were transduced with a lentiviral vector encoding an antisense RNA that targeted a 937 bp region in the HIV-1 envelope gene. Preclinical studies demonstrated that this antisense region, directed against the HIV-1NL4-3 envelope, provided robust protection from a broad range of both R5-and X4-tropic HIV-1 isolates [38]. One year after administration of a single dose of the gene-modified cells, four of the five enrolled patients had increased peripheral blood CD4 T cell counts, and in one subject, a 1.7 log decrease in viral load was observed. Finally, in two of the five patients, persistence of the gene-modified cells was detected one year post-infusion.
Since its identification as the primary co-receptor involved in HIV transmission, CCR5 has attracted considerable attention as a target for HIV therapy [42,43]. Indeed, “experiments of nature” have shown that individuals with a homozygous CCR5 Δ32 deletion are highly resistant to HIV-1 infection. Thus, we hypothesized that knocking out the CCR5 locus would generate CD4 T cells permanently resistant to infection by R5 isolates of HIV-1. To test this hypothesis we took advantage of zinc-finger nuclease (ZFN) technology [44]. ZFNs introduce sequencespecific double-strand DNA breakage, which is imperfectly repaired by non-homologous endjoining. This results in the permanent disruption of the genomic target, a process termed genome editing (Fig. 3).
Genetic modification of T cells to redirect antigen specificity is an attractive strategy compared to the lengthy process of growing T cell lines or CTL clones for adoptive transfer. Genetically modified, adoptively transferred T cells are capable of long-term persistence in humans [37, 46,47], demonstrating the feasibility of this approach. When compared to the months it can take to generate an infusion dose of antigen-specific CTL lines or clones from a patient, a homogeneous population of redirected antigen-specific cells can be expanded to therapeutically relevant numbers in about two weeks [3]. Several strategies are being explored to bypass the need to expand antigen-specific T cells for adoptive T cell therapy. The approaches currently studied in our laboratory involve the genetic transfer of chimeric antigen receptors and supraphysiologic T cell receptors.
Chimeric antigen receptors (CARs or T-bodies) are artificial T cell receptors that combine the extracellular single-chain variable fragment (scFv) of an antibody with intracellular signaling domains, such as CD3ζ or Fc(ε)RIγ [48–50]. When expressed on T cells, the receptor bypasses the need for antigen presentation on MHC since the scFv binds directly to cell surface antigens. This is an important feature, since many tumors and virus-infected cells downregulate MHCI, rendering them invisible to the adaptive immune system. The high-affinity nature of the scFv domain makes these engineered T cells highly sensitive to low antigen densities. In addition, new chimeric antigen receptors are relatively easy to produce from hybridomas. The key to this approach is the identification of antigens with high surface expression on tumor cells, but reduced or absent expression on normal tissues.  Since one can redirect both CD4 and CD8 T cells, the T-body approach to immunotherapy represents a near universal “off the shelf” method to generate large numbers of antigen-specific helper and cytotoxic T cells.
Many T-bodies targeting diverse tumors have been developed [51], and four have been evaluated clinically [52–55]. Three of the four studies were characterized by poor transgene expression and limited T-body engraftment. However, in a study of metastatic renal cell carcinoma using a T-body directed against carbonic anhydrase IX [55], T-body-expressing cells were detectable in the peripheral blood for nearly 2 months post-administration.
The major goals in the T-body field currently are to optimize their engraftment and maximize their effector functions. Our laboratory is addressing both problems simultaneously through an in-depth study of the requirements for T-body activation. We hypothesize that their limited persistence is due to incomplete cell activation due to the lack of costimulation. While naïve T cells depend on costimulation through CD28 ligation to avoid anergy and undergo full activation in response to antigen, it is recognized that effector cells also require costimulation to properly proliferate and produce cytokines [56]. Previous studies have shown that providing CD28 costimulation is crucial for the antitumoral function of adoptively transferred T cells and T-bodies [57–59]. Unlike conventional T cell activation, which requires two discrete signals, T-bodies can be engineered to provide both costimulation and CD3 signaling through one binding event.
A different approach for redirecting specificity to T cells for adoptive immunotherapy involves the genetic transfer of full-length TCR genes. A T cell’s specificity for its cognate antigen is solely determined by its TCR. Genes encoding the α and β chains of a T cell receptor (TCR) can be isolated from a T cell specific for the antigen of interest and restricted to a defined HLA allele, inserted into a vector, and then introduced into large numbers of T cells of individual patients that share the restricting HLA allele as well as the targeted antigen. In 1999, Clay and colleagues from Rosenberg’s group at the National Cancer Institute were the first to report the transfer of TCR genes via a retroviral vector into human lymphocytes and to show that T cells gained stable reactivity to MART-1 [67]. To date, many others have shown that the same approach can be used to transfer specificity for multiple viral and tumor associated antigens in mice and human systems. These T cells gain effector functions against the transferred TCR’s cognate antigen, as defined by proliferation, cytokine production, lysis of targets presenting the antigen, trafficking to tumor sites in vivo, and clearance of tumors and viral infection.
In 2006, Rosenberg’s group redirected patients’ PBLs with the naturally occurring, MART-1- specific TCR reported in 1999 by Clay. In the first clinical trial to test TCR-transfer immunotherapy, these modified T cells were infused into melanoma patients [68]. While the transduced T cells persisted in vivo, only two of the 17 patients had an objective response to this therapy. One issue revealed by the study was the poor expression of the transgenic TCRs by the transferred T cells. Nonetheless, the results from this trial showed the potential of TCR transfer immunotherapy as a safe form of therapy for cancer and highlighted the need to optimize such therapy to attain maximum potency.
The adoptive immunotherapy field is advancing by a tried-and-true method: learning from disappointments and moving forward. Our ability to fully realize the therapeutic potential of adoptive T cell therapy is tied to a more complete understanding of how human T cells receive signals, kill targets, and modulate effective immune responses. Our goal is to perform labbased experiments that provide insight into how primary T cells function in a manner that will facilitate and enable adoptive T cell therapy clinical trials. Our ability to efficiently modify (and expand) T cells ex vivo provides the opportunity to deliver sufficient immune firepower where it has heretofore been lacking. Sustained transgene expression, coupled with enhanced in vivo engraftment capability, will move adoptive immunotherapy into a realm where longterm therapeutic benefits are the norm rather than the exception.
Genetic Modification of T Lymphocytes for Adoptive Immunotherapy

Claudia Rossig1 and Malcolm K. Brenner2
Molecular Therapy (2004) 10, 5–18;

Adoptive transfer of T lymphocytes is a promising therapy for malignancies—particularly of the hemopoietic system—and for otherwise intractable viral diseases. Efforts to broaden the approach have been limited by the physiology of the T cells themselves and by a range of immune evasion mechanisms developed by tumor cells. In this review we show how genetic modification of T cells is being used preclinically and in patients to overcome these limitations, by incorporation of novel receptors, resistance mechanisms, and control genes. We also discuss how the increasing safety and effectiveness of gene transfer technologies will lead to an increase in the use of gene-modified T cells for the treatment of a wider range of disorders.

That gene transfer could be used to improve the effectiveness of T lymphocytes was apparent from the beginning of clinical studies in the field. T cells were the very first targets for genetic modification in human gene transfer experiments. Rosenberg’s group marked tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes ex vivo with a Moloney retroviral vector encoding neomycin phosphotransferase before reinfusing them and attempting to demonstrate selective accumulation at tumor sites. Shortly thereafter, Blaese and Anderson led a group that infused corrected T cells into two children with severe combined immunodeficiency due to ADA deficiency. While neither study was completely successful in terms of outcome, both showed the feasibility of ex vivo gene transfer into human cells and set the stage for many of the studies that followed. More recently, a second wave of interest in adoptive T cell therapies has developed, based on their success in the prevention and treatment of viral infections such as EBV and cytomegalovirus (CMV) and on their apparent ability to eradicate hematologic and perhaps solid malignancies1,2,3,4,5,6. There has been a corresponding increase in studies directed toward enhancing the antineoplastic and antiviral properties of the T cells. In this article we will review how gene transfer may be used to produce the desired improvements focusing on vectors and genes that have had clinical application.

Currently available viral and nonviral vector systems lack a pattern of biodistribution that would favor T cell transduction in vivo—as occurs, for example, with adenovectors and the liver or liposomal vectors and the lung. This lack of favorable biodistribution cannot yet be compensated for by the introduction of specific T-cell-targeting ligands into vectors. Hence, all T cell gene transfer studies conducted to date have used ex vivo transduction followed by adoptive transfer of gene-modified cells. This approach is inherently less attractive for commercial development than directin vivo gene transfer and has probably restricted interest in developing clinical applications using these cells. On the other hand, ex vivo transduction may be more readily controlled, characterized, and standardized than in vivo efforts and may ultimately produce a better defined final product (the transduced cell).

The gene products of suicide and coexpressed resistance genes are highly immunogenic and may induce immune-mediated rejection of the transduced cells. In one study, the persistence of adoptively transferred autologous CD8+ HIV-specific CTL clones modified to express the hygromycin phosphotransferase (Hy) gene and the herpesvirus thymidine kinase gene as a fusion gene was limited by the induction of a potent CD8+ class I MHC-restricted CTL response specific for epitopes derived from the Hy-tk protein126. Less immunogenic suicide and selection marker genes, preferably of human origin, may reduce the immunological inactivation of genetically modified donor lymphocytes. Human-derived prodrug-activating systems include the human folylpolyglutamate synthetase/methotrexate127, the deoxycytidine/cytosine arabinoside128, or the carboxylesterase/irinotecan129 systems. These systems do not activate nontoxic prodrugs but are based on enhancement of already potent chemotherapeutic agents. The administration of methotrexate to treat severe GVHD may not only kill transduced donor lymphocytes but may also have additional inhibitory activity on nontransduced but activated T cells.

Finally, endogenous proapoptotic molecules have been proposed as nonimmunogenic suicide genes. A chimeric protein that contains the FK506-binding protein FKBP12 linked to the intracellular domain of human Fas130 was recently introduced. Addition of the dimerizing prodrug induces Fas crosslinking with subsequent triggering of an apoptotic death signal.

Genetic engineering of T lymphocytes should help deliver on the promise of immunotherapies for cancer, infection, and autoimmune disease. Improvements in transduction, selection, and expansion techniques and the development of new viral vectors incapable of insertional mutagenesis will reduce the risks and further enhance the integration of T cell and gene therapies. Nonetheless, successful application of the proposed modifications to the clinical setting still requires many iterative studies to allow investigators to optimize the individual components of the approach.

Genetically modified T cells in cancer therapy: opportunities and challenges
Michaela Sharpe, Natalie Mount


The feasibility of T-cell adoptive transfer was first reported nearly 20 years ago (Walter et al., 1995) and the field of T-cell therapies is now poised for significant clinical advances. Recent clinical trial successes have been achieved through multiple small advances, improved understanding of immunology and emerging technologies. As the key challenges of T-cell avidity, persistence and ability to exert the desired anti-tumour effects as well as the identification of new target antigens are addressed, a broader clinical application of these therapies could be achieved. As the clinical data emerges, the challenge of making these therapies available to patients shifts to implementing robust, scalable and cost-effective manufacture and to the further evolution of the regulatory requirements to ensure an appropriate but proportionate system that is adapted to the characteristics of these innovative new medicines.




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Obesity Pharmaceutics

Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator



Battling the Bulge

Weight-loss drugs that target newly characterized obesity-related receptors and pathways could finally offer truly effective fat control.

By Bob Grant | November 1, 2015

Several years ago, antiobesity drug development was not looking so hot. In 2007, Sanofi-Aventis failed to win US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for rimonabant—a pill that successfully helped people shed pounds—because the drug carried risks of depression and suicidal thoughts. Then, in 2008, Merck pulled the plug on its Phase 3 trials of taranabant because it also engendered suicidal thoughts and neurological effects in some participants. And a decade before those late-stage disappointments, a couple of FDA-approved weight-loss drugs were making headlines for carrying dangerous side effects. In 1997, the FDA pulled the obesity medications fenfluramine (of the wildly popular fen-phen drug combination) and dexfenfluramine (Redux) off the market after research turned up evidence of heart valve damage in people taking the drugs.

By 2009, Big Pharma was backing out of the weight-loss market, with Merck and Pfizer abandoning their programs to develop drugs similar to rimonabant and taranabant, which block cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Although the antiobesity drug market was big—according to CDC estimates, about 35 percent of adults in the U.S. are obese—a blockbuster weight-loss pill that didn’t have serious side effects was proving elusive.

But a few firms, including several small biotechs, decided to stick with it. “Some of the prior experience with drugs on the market, like fen-phen and Redux, have likely led large pharma to view the therapeutic space with some conservatism,” says Preston Klassen, executive vice president and head of global development at Orexigen Therapeutics, a small, California-based firm. “And generally, when you have that situation, smaller companies will step into that void when the science makes sense.” And their perseverance is starting to pay off. After a years-long drought in approvals for antiobesity medications, in the past few years the FDA has approved four new drugs specifically for general obesity: Belviq and Qsymia in 2012, and Contrave and Saxenda in late 2014. Three of these four were developed by small companies whose success hinges on one or a few compounds aimed directly at treating general obesity.

The recent burst of antiobesity drug approvals reflects an evolving appreciation for the molecular intricacies of this multifaceted, chronic disease. Today’s antiobesity drugs—including the four recent approvals and several more in development—have traded the blunt cudgel of appetite suppression for more precise targeting of pathways known to play roles in obesity. “With our understanding of the complex biology of obesity and all of the different molecules and receptors involved in the process, we’re much better able to target those molecules and receptors,” says Arya Sharma, chair in obesity research and management at the University of Alberta in Canada. “These are very specific agents that are designed for very specific actions. There is renewed enthusiasm in this field.”

Looking to combos

In the mid-20th century, the FDA approved several weight-loss drugs, starting with the appetite suppressant desoxyephedrine (methamphetamine hydrochloride) in 1947. Like the other appetite-suppressing drugs the FDA later approved through the 1950s and ’60s, desoxyephedrine accomplished short-term weight loss, but the transient benefit did not justify the side effects of long-term use, such as addiction, psychosis, and violent behavior. In 1973, as the nation voiced concern about the overuse of amphetamines, the FDA decreed that all obesity drugs were approved only for short-term use. The most recently approved obesity drugs, on the other hand, all have the FDA’s okay for long-term weight management.

Three of the newly approved drugs, Contrave, Belviq, and Qsymia, also aim to suppress appetite, and like many previous weight-loss therapies, all do so by targeting the hypothalamus, the brain region thought to be the seat of appetite control. Although the precise mechanism of Belviq, which is manufactured by San Diego–based Arena Pharmaceuticals, is unknown, researchers think that the key is its activation of serotonin-binding 5-HT2C receptors in proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons in the hypothalamus. When activated, these neurons reduce appetite and increase energy expenditure, according to Orexigen’s Klassen. His company’s Contrave also activates POMC neurons in the hypothalamus, while at the same time inhibiting opioid receptors, which would otherwise work to shut down POMC neuron firing, in the brain’s mesolimbic reward pathway. Contrave achieves this one-two punch because it is a combination therapy, incorporating two different compounds into a single weight-loss pill.

“The concept of a silver or magic bullet whereby one drug meets all of the needs within the obesity space has thus far proven to be inadequate,” says Klassen. “Right now I think the predominant opinion is that combination therapy is an appropriate way to go.”

Vivus’s Qsymia is also a combination drug, composed of phentermine—the other half of fen-phen and an activator of a G protein–coupled receptor called TAAR1—and an extended-release form of topiramate, an anticonvulsant with weight-loss side effects. Novo Nordisk—one of the few Big Pharma firms that stayed in the obesity game as others fled—is also turning its attention to combo therapies, testing its pipeline of investigational weight-loss compounds with Saxenda, its recently approved medicine that mimics glucagon peptide-1 (GLP-1), an appetite and calorie-intake regulator in the brain. “You need to combine at least two molecules to get the optimum effect,” says Novo Nordisk executive vice president and chief scientific officer Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen. The company has five other weight-loss compounds in development, and “we’re actually combining Saxenda with all of these new molecules,” he adds.

The University of Alberta’s Sharma agrees that combination therapies are a smart approach for attacking the multilayered mechanisms at play in obesity. “You’re dealing with a system that is very complex and very redundant. When you block one, other molecules or other parallel systems kick in,” he says. “My prediction for the future is that in order to get good results, one will have to move toward combinations . . . of more-specific and more-novel agents.”

On the horizon

On the heels of the recent FDA approvals, several new compounds with novel mechanisms of action are making their way through the drug-development pipeline. While most antiobesity drugs to date have aimed to suppress appetite by targeting brain regions involved in feelings of hunger and satiety, Boston-based Zafgen (for which Sharma serves as a paid advisor) is going after methionine aminopeptidase 2 (MetAP2) receptors in the liver and adipose tissue. “We’ve been one of the first ones to show that there is a significant and major weight-regulation center that the body has that exists outside the hypothalamus,” says Zafgen chief medical officer Dennis Kim. “Our drug [beloranib] is tapping into that mechanism.”


Zafgen researchers are investigating beloranib’s mechanism of action in patients that became very obese after their hypothalamus was damaged or removed as a result of craniopharyngioma, a type of brain cancer. “In about half of these cases, patients wake up hungry after surgery and it’s unrelenting, and they become morbidly obese very rapidly,” Kim says. Because the hypothalamus is damaged or missing, antiobesity drugs that target this brain region are ineffective. But beloranib “works just as well in these patients compared to patients with intact hypothalamus,” Kim says. As a result, beloranib may work in isolation without the need to combine different compounds, he adds. “If you can target a nodal point that’s much more upstream of simple circuitry-controlled hunger in the hypothalamus, you have the potential to reset the entire system.”

Meanwhile, another Boston-based firm, Rhythm Pharmaceuticals, is conducting clinical trials on obese patients with rare genetic disorders that compromise the melanocortin-4 (MC4) pathway, known to be involved in body weight regulation. Rhythm’s setmelanotide (RM-493) is a first-in-class drug that activates the MC4 pathway. And several companies, including the Japanese pharma firm Shionogi, are developing compounds that block the receptor of a neurotransmitter called neuropeptide Y, which plays a role in appetite stimulation and meal initiation.

Other new antiobesity targets include cyclic nucleotides, second messengers in signaling cascades such as the 3′-5′-cyclic guanosine monophosphate pathway, which conveys feelings of satiety and ramps up thermogenesis; amylin, a peptide hormone that slows gastric emptying and promotes satiety; ghrelin, a gut hormone that stimulates food intake; and a handful of pathways that affect nutrient absorption and metabolism. As more of obesity’s molecular complexities are sorted out, even more new drug targets will present themselves.

“I think we are on the verge of understanding obesity and the mechanisms underlying obesity,” says Novo Nordisk’s Thomsen. “That means that there is going to be a lot of good news for obesity going forward.”



© ISTOCK.COM/QUISP65Getting a weight-loss treatment approved by the FDA is a little different than the regulatory path taken by other drugs. To earn approval, companies must demonstrate that their drugs afford at least a 5 percent reduction in body weight over a year. And after a therapy reaches the market, companies have to conduct more research, specifically, into the drugs’ safety. Contrave, for example, which was approved in September 2014, is currently subject to rigorous post-marketing surveillance concerning evidence that the drug may lead to suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Other recently approved antiobesity drugs are under similar surveillance regimens.

The FDA also requires companies to test some approved weight-loss drugs specifically for their cardiovascular side effects. “Serious safety concerns have arisen with several obesity drugs in the past, which have informed our approach to drug development,” FDA spokesperson Eric Pahon wrote in an email to The Scientist. “All drugs approved for chronic weight management since 2012 have either had a cardiovascular outcome trial (CVOT) underway at the time of approval or have been required to initiate a CVOT as a post-marketing requirement.”

This additional testing, however, may scare off some drug developers from entering the antiobesity arena, Vivus spokesperson Dana Shinbaum wrote in an email to The Scientist. “The hurdles remain high . . . [and] may discourage innovation in this area.”

But even with the significant regulatory hurdles, it’s tough to deny the potential that exists in the antiobesity drug market. “We view obesity as one of the few remaining untapped therapeutic areas within primary care,” says Preston Klassen of Orexigen Therapeutics. “We think it’s tremendously important from a medical perspective, and we think it’s been well documented that even small reductions in body weight have meaningful and sustained impact on improved health.”



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Cells Rhythmically Regulate Their Genes

Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator



Cells Rhythmically Regulate Their Genes

Study led by researchers at Caltech shows that pulsing can allow two proteins to interact with each other in a rhythmic fashion that allows them to control genes.


Even in a calm, unchanging environment, cells are not static. Among other actions, cells activate and then deactivate some types of transcription factors—proteins that control the expression of genes—in a series of unpredictable and intermittent pulses. Since discovering this pulsing phenomenon, scientists have wondered what functions it could provide for cells.

Now, a new study from Caltech researchers shows that pulsing can allow two proteins to interact with each other in a rhythmic fashion that allows them to control genes. Specifically, when the expression of the transcription factors goes in and out of sync, gene expression also goes up and down. These rhythms of activation, the researchers say, may also underlie core processes in the cells of organisms from across the kingdoms of life.

“The way transcription factor pulses sync up with one another in time could play an important role in allowing cells to process information, communicate with other cells, and respond to stress,” says paper coauthor Michael Elowitz, a professor of biology and biological engineering and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.




The research was led by Caltech postdoctoral scholar Yihan Lin. Other Caltech authors of the paper are Assistant Professor of Chemistry Long Cai; Chang Ho Sohn, a staff scientist in the Cai lab; and Elowitz’s former graduate student Chiraj K. Dalal (PhD ’10), now at UC San Francisco.

Cai, Dalal, and Elowitz reported a functional role for transcription factor pulsing in 2008. In the meantime, researchers worldwide have been steadily uncovering similar surges of protein activity across diverse cell types and genetic systems.

Realizing that many different factors are pulsing in the same cell even in unchanging conditions, the Caltech scientists began to wonder if cells might adjust the relative timing of these pulses to enable a novel sort of time-based regulation. To find out, they set up time-lapse movies to follow two pulsing proteins and a target gene in real time in individual yeast cells.

The team tagged two central transcription factors named Msn2 and Mig1 with green and red fluorescent proteins, respectively. When the transcription factors are activated, they move into the nucleus, where they influence gene expression. This movement—as well as the activation of the factors—can be visualized because the fluorescent markers concentrate within the small volume of the nucleus, causing it to glow brightly, either green, red, or both. The color choice for the fluorescent tags was symbolic: Msn2 serves as an activator, and Mig1 as a repressor. “Msn2, the green factor, steps on the gas and turns up gene expression, while Mig1, the red factor, hits the brakes,” says Elowitz.

When the scientists stressed the yeast cells by adding heat, for example, or restricting food, the pulses of Msn2 and Mig1 changed their timing with respect to one another, with more or less frequent periods of overlap between their pulses, depending upon the stressing stimulus.

Generally, when the two transcription factors pulsed in synchrony, the repressor blocked the ability of the activator to turn on genes. “It’s like someone simultaneously pumping the gas and brake pedals in a car over and over again,” says Elowitz.

But when they were off-beat, with the activator pulsing without the repressor, gene expression increased. “When the cell alternates between the brake and the gas—the Msn2 transcription factor in this case—the car can move,” says Elowitz. As a result of these stress-altered rhythms, the cells successfully produced more (or fewer) copies of certain proteins that helped the yeast cope with the unpleasant situation.

Previously, researchers have thought that the relative concentrations of multiple transcription factors in the nucleus determine how they regulate a common gene target—a phenomenon known as combinatorial regulation. But the new study suggests that the relative timing of the pulses of transcription factors may be just as important as their concentration.

“Most genes in the cell are regulated by several transcription factors in a combinatorial fashion, as parts of a complex network,” says Cai. “What we’re now seeing is a new mode of regulation that controls the pulse timing of transcription factors, and this could be critical to understanding the combinatorial regulation in genetic networks.”

“There appears to be a layer of time-based regulation in the cell that, because it can only be observed with movies of individual cells, is still largely unexplored,” says Lin. “We look forward to learning more about this intriguing and underappreciated form of gene regulation.”

In future research, the scientists will try to understand how prevalent this newfound mode of time-based regulation is in a variety of cell types and will examine its involvement in gene regulation systems. In the context of synthetic biology—the harnessing and modification of biological systems for human technological applications—the researchers also hope to develop methods to control such pulsing to program new cellular behaviors.



Combinatorial gene regulation by modulation of relative pulse timing.
Nature. Nov 5, 2015; 527(7576):54-8. doi: 10.1038/nature15710. Epub 2015 Oct 14.
Studies of individual living cells have revealed that many transcription factors activate in dynamic, and often stochastic, pulses within the same cell. However, it has remained unclear whether cells might exploit the dynamic interaction of these pulses to control gene expression. Here, using quantitative single-cell time-lapse imaging of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, we show that the pulsatile transcription factors Msn2 and Mig1 combinatorially regulate their target genes through modulation of their relative pulse timing. The activator Msn2 and repressor Mig1 showed pulsed activation in either a temporally overlapping or non-overlapping manner during their transient response to different inputs, with only the non-overlapping dynamics efficiently activating target gene expression. Similarly, under constant environmental conditions, where Msn2 and Mig1 exhibit sporadic pulsing, glucose concentration modulated the temporal overlap between pulses of the two factors. Together, these results reveal a time-based mode of combinatorial gene regulation. Regulation through relative signal timing is common in engineering and neurobiology, and these results suggest that it could also function broadly within the signalling and regulatory systems of the cell.

Pulsatile Dynamics in the Yeast Proteome
Chiraj K. Dalal,1,2 Long Cai,1,2 Yihan Lin,1 Kasra Rahbar,1 and Michael B. Elowitz1, * 1
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Division of Biology and Bioengineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA


  • Pulsing is prevalent in the yeast proteome
  • Pulsing is specific to transcription factors
  • Pulsing regulates a large fraction of the genome

The activation of transcription factors in response to environmental conditions is fundamental to cellular regulation. Recent work has revealed that some transcription factors are activated in stochastic pulses of nuclear localization, rather than at a constant level, even in a constant environment [ 1–12 ]. In such cases, signals control the mean activity of the transcription factor by modulating the frequency, duration, or amplitude of these pulses. Although specific pulsatile transcription factors have been identified in diverse cell types, it has remained unclear how prevalent pulsing is within the cell, how variable pulsing behaviors are between genes, and whether pulsing is specific to transcriptional regulators or is employed more broadly. To address these issues, we performed a proteome-wide movie-based screen to systematically identify localization-based pulsing behaviors in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The screen examined all genes in a previously developed fluorescent protein fusion library of 4,159 strains [ 13 ] in multiple media conditions. This approach revealed stochastic pulsing in ten proteins, all transcription factors. In each case, pulse dynamics were heterogeneous and unsynchronized among cells in clonal populations. Pulsing is the only dynamic localization behavior that we observed, and it tends to occur in pairs of paralogous and redundant proteins. Taken together, these results suggest that pulsatile dynamics play a pervasive role in yeast and may be similarly prevalent in other eukaryotic species.

Since most pulsing proteins are members of a pair of paralogous or functionally redundant transcription factors, one explanation for the evolution of pulsing is one in which pulsing is ancient and existed prior to the whole-genome duplication (estimated to be w80 million years ago [20]). Since then, pulsing appears to have been lost only in some proteins (Mig3 and Rtg3), and the paralogs that have retained the ability to pulse have changed in their dynamics (Figure 3). Alternatively, paralogs that both pulse could have acquired pulsatile regulation through shared regulatory inputs that later became pulsatile. Further work analyzing whether proteins orthologous to the pulsing transcription factors described here also pulse, specifically in species that diverged prior to the whole-genome duplication, will distinguish between these hypotheses.

Recent work shows that pulsatile regulation occurs in diverse mammalian systems including NF-AT [9], p53 [10], Erk signaling [11], TGF-b signaling [12], and NF-kB [22–24]. Moreover, many bacterial systems, such as persistence in Mycobacterium smegmatis [25] and bacterial competence [26], sporulation [27], and stress response in Bacillus subtilis [28], employ pulsing. The presence of pulsing in so many systems across a wide range of species suggests that pulsing may be a common solution to many biological problems. For example, pulsing has already been shown to proportionally regulate entire regulons of target genes [2, 7], implement transient differentiation [26, 29], enable a multi-cell-cycle timer [27], and promote bet-hedging [25]. Pulsing may provide a time-based mode of regulation that facilitates these and other functions [1].

Figure 3. Pulsing Is Variable Single-cell traces show that pulses vary from cell to cell (different colors on the same trace), from paralog to paralog (across columns) and from protein to protein (A–L). All traces are from the same movie that generated corresponding filmstrips in Figure 2. All traces have been smoothed. See also Figure S2 and Movie S1. pulsing may be a common solution to many biological problems. For example, pulsing has already been shown to proportionally regulate entire regulons of target genes [2, 7], implement transient differentiation [26, 29], enable a multi-cell-cycle timer [27], and promote bet-hedging [25]. Pulsing may provide a time-based mode of regulation that facilitates these and other functions [1].

Taken together, these observations reveal that pulsatility is surprisingly pervasive in cells. It will now be critical to determine its mechanisms and functions and understand how these dynamics are integrated into the core functions of living cells. Although recent work has provided new insights into Msn2 pulsing [3, 4, 7, 8, 30, 31] and other work has provided a mechanism for pulsatile activation of a sigma factor in bacteria [28], we still lack a full understanding of the mechanisms of pulse generation and modulation for any yeast transcription factor. Do different pulsing systems use a common type of mechanism for pulsing, or are there many distinct mechanisms that can generate similar pulse dynamics? Pulsatility appears to be a core regulatory mechanism in yeast and most likely in other cell types as well [9]. The pulsatile proteins identified here should provide a starting point for understanding the roles that this dynamic regulatory mechanism plays in diverse cell types.


The title places scientific facts in the correct direction. However, for fast regulatory responses (those that keeps cells alive), no change in gene expression is required.

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New FDA Draft Guidance On Homologous Use of Human Cells, Tissues, and Cellular and Tissue-Based Products – Implications for 3D BioPrinting of Regenerative Tissue

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

The FDA recently came out with a Draft Guidance on use of human cells, tissues and cellular and tissue-based products (HCT/P) {defined in 21 CFR 1271.3(d)} and their use in medical procedures. Although the draft guidance was to expand on previous guidelines to prevent the introduction, transmission, and spread of communicable diseases, this updated draft may have implications for use of such tissue in the emerging medical 3D printing field.

A full copy of the PDF can be found here for reference but the following is a summary of points of the guidance.FO508ver – 2015-373 HomologousUseGuidanceFinal102715

In 21 CFR 1271.10, the regulations identify the criteria for regulation solely under section 361 of the PHS Act and 21 CFR Part 1271. An HCT/P is regulated solely under section 361 of the PHS Act and 21 CFR Part 1271 if it meets all of the following criteria (21 CFR 1271.10(a)):

  • The HCT/P is minimally manipulated;
  • The HCT/P is intended for homologous use only, as reflected by the labeling, advertising, or other indications of the manufacturer’s objective intent;
  • The manufacture of the HCT/P does not involve the combination of the cells or tissues with another article, except for water, crystalloids, or a sterilizing, preserving, or storage agent, provided that the addition of water, crystalloids, or the sterilizing, preserving, or storage agent does not raise new clinical safety concerns with respect to the HCT/P; and
  • Either:
  1. The HCT/P does not have a systemic effect and is not dependent upon the metabolic activity of living cells for its primary function; or
  2. The HCT/P has a systemic effect or is dependent upon the metabolic activity of living cells for its primary function, and:
  3. Is for autologous use;
  4. Is for allogeneic use in a first-degree or second-degree blood relative; or
  5. Is for reproductive use.

If an HCT/P does not meet all of the criteria in 21 CFR 1271.10(a), and the establishment that manufactures the HCT/P does not qualify for any of the exceptions in 21 CFR 1271.15, the HCT/P will be regulated as a drug, device, and/or biological product under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), and/or section 351 of the PHS Act, and applicable regulations, including 21 CFR Part 1271, and pre-market review will be required.

1 Examples of HCT/Ps include, but are not limited to, bone, ligament, skin, dura mater, heart valve, cornea, hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells derived from peripheral and cord blood, manipulated autologous chondrocytes, epithelial cells on a synthetic matrix, and semen or other reproductive tissue. The following articles are not considered HCT/Ps: (1) Vascularized human organs for transplantation; (2) Whole blood or blood components or blood derivative products subject to listing under 21 CFR Parts 607 and 207, respectively; (3) Secreted or extracted human products, such as milk, collagen, and cell factors, except that semen is considered an HCT/P; (4) Minimally manipulated bone marrow for homologous use and not combined with another article (except for water, crystalloids, or a sterilizing, preserving, or storage agent, if the addition of the agent does not raise new clinical safety concerns with respect to the bone marrow); (5) Ancillary products used in the manufacture of HCT/P; (6) Cells, tissues, and organs derived from animals other than humans; (7) In vitro diagnostic products as defined in 21 CFR 809.3(a); and (8) Blood vessels recovered with an organ, as defined in 42 CFR 121.2 that are intended for use in organ transplantation and labeled “For use in organ transplantation only.” (21 CFR 1271.3(d))

Contains Nonbinding Recommendations
Draft – Not for Implementation

Section 1271.10(a)(2) (21 CFR 1271.10(a)(2)) provides that one of the criteria for an HCT/P to be regulated solely under section 361 of the PHS Act is that the “HCT/P is intended for homologous use only, as reflected by the labeling, advertising, or other indications of the manufacturer’s objective intent.” As defined in 21 CFR 1271.3(c), homologous use means the repair, reconstruction, replacement, or supplementation of a recipient’s cells or tissues with an HCT/P that performs the same basic function or functions in the recipient as in the donor. This criterion reflects the Agency’s conclusion that there would be increased safety and effectiveness concerns for HCT/Ps that are intended for a non-homologous use, because there is less basis on which to predict the product’s behavior, whereas HCT/Ps for homologous use can reasonably be expected to function appropriately (assuming all of the other criteria are also met).2 In applying the homologous use criterion, FDA will determine what the intended use of the HCT/P is, as reflected by the the labeling, advertising, and other indications of a manufacturer’s objective intent, and will then apply the homologous use definition.

FDA has received many inquiries from manufacturers about whether their HCT/Ps meet the homologous use criterion in 21 CFR 1271.10(a)(2). Additionally, transplant and healthcare providers often need to know this information about the HCT/Ps that they are considering for use in their patients. This guidance provides examples of different types of HCT/Ps and how the regulation in 21 CFR 1271.10(a)(2) applies to them, and provides general principles that can be applied to HCT/Ps that may be developed in the future. In some of the examples, the HCT/Ps may fail to meet more than one of the four criteria in 21 CFR 1271.10(a).


  1. What is the definition of homologous use?

Homologous use means the repair, reconstruction, replacement, or supplementation of a recipient’s cells or tissues with an HCT/P that performs the same basic function or functions in the recipient as in the donor (21 CFR 1271.3(c)), including when such cells or tissues are for autologous use. We generally consider an HCT/P to be for homologous use when it is used to repair, reconstruct, replace, or supplement:

  • Recipient cells or tissues that are identical (e.g., skin for skin) to the donor cells or tissues, and perform one or more of the same basic functions in the recipient as the cells or tissues performed in the donor; or,
  • Recipient cells that may not be identical to the donor’s cells, or recipient tissues that may not be identical to the donor’s tissues, but that perform one or more of the same basic functions in the recipient as the cells or tissues performed in the donor.3

2 Proposed Approach to Regulation of Cellular and Tissue-Based Products, FDA Docket. No. 97N-0068 (February. 28, 1997) page 19. ucm062601.pdf.

3“Establishment Registration and Listing for Manufacturers of Human Cellular and Tissue-Based Products” 63 FR 26744 at 26749 (May 14, 1998).

Contains Nonbinding Recommendations
Draft – Not for Implementation

1-1. A heart valve is transplanted to replace a dysfunctional heart valve. This is homologous use because the donor heart valve performs the same basic function in the donor as in the recipient of ensuring unidirectional blood flow within the heart.

1-2. Pericardium is intended to be used as a wound covering for dura mater defects. This is homologous use because the pericardium is intended to repair or reconstruct the dura mater and serve as a covering in the recipient, which is one of the basic functions it performs in the donor.

Generally, if an HCT/P is intended for use as an unproven treatment for a myriad of

diseases or conditions, the HCT/P is likely not intended for homologous use only.4

  1. What does FDA mean by repair, reconstruction, replacement, or supplementation of a recipient’s cells or tissues?

Repair generally means the physical or mechanical restoration of tissues, including by covering or protecting. For example, FDA generally would consider skin removed from a donor and then transplanted to a recipient in order to cover a burn wound to be a homologous use. Reconstruction generally means surgical reassembling or re-forming. For example, reconstruction generally would include the reestablishment of the physical integrity of a damaged aorta.5 Replacement generally means substitution of a missing tissue or cell, for example, the replacement of a damaged or diseased cornea with a healthy cornea or the replacement of donor hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells in a recipient with a disorder affecting the hematopoietic system that is inherited, acquired, or the result of myeloablative treatment. Supplementation generally means to add to, or complete. For example, FDA generally would consider homologous uses to be the implantation of dermal matrix into the facial wrinkles to supplement a recipient’s tissues and the use of bone chips to supplement bony defects. Repair, reconstruction, replacement, and supplementation are not mutually exclusive functions and an HCT/P could perform more than one of these functions for a given intended use.

  1. What does FDA mean by “the same basic function or functions” in the definition of homologous use?

For the purpose of applying the regulatory framework, the same basic function or functions of HCT/Ps are considered to be those basic functions the HCT/P performs in the body of the donor, which, when transplanted, implanted, infused, or transferred, the HCT/P would be expected to perform in the recipient. It is not necessary for the HCT/P in the recipient to perform all of the basic functions it performed in the donor, in order to

4 “Human Cells, Tissues, and Cellular and Tissue-Based Products; Establishment Registration and Listing” 66 FR 5447 at 5458 (January 19, 2001).

5 “Current Good Tissue Practice for Human Cell, Tissue, and Cellular and Tissue-Based Product Establishments; Inspection and Enforcement” 69 FR 68612 at 68643 (November 24, 2004) states, “HCT/Ps with claims for “reconstruction or repair” can be regulated solely under section 361 of the PHS Act, provided the HCT/P meets all the criteria in § 1271.10, including minimal manipulation and homologous use.”

Contains Nonbinding Recommendations
Draft – Not for Implementation

meet the definition of homologous use. However, to meet the definition of homologous use, any of the basic functions that the HCT/P is expected to perform in the recipient must be a basic function that the HCT/P performed in the donor.

A homologous use for a structural tissue would generally be to perform a structural function in the recipient, for example, to physically support or serve as a barrier or conduit, or connect, cover, or cushion.

A homologous use for a cellular or nonstructural tissue would generally be a metabolic or biochemical function in the recipient, such as, hematopoietic, immune, and endocrine functions.

3-1. The basic functions of hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HPCs) include to form and to replenish the hematopoietic system. Sources of HPCs include cord blood, peripheral blood, and bone marrow.6

  1. HPCs derived from peripheral blood are intended for transplantation into an individual with a disorder affecting the hematopoietic system that is inherited, acquired, or the result of myeloablative treatment. This is homologous use because the peripheral blood product performs the same basic function of reconstituting the hematopoietic system in the recipient.
  2. HPCs derived from bone marrow are infused into an artery with a balloon catheter for the purpose of limiting ventricular remodeling following acute myocardial infarction. This is not homologous use because limiting ventricular remodeling is not a basic function of bone marrow.
  3. A manufacturer provides HPCs derived from cord blood with a package insert stating that cord blood may be infused intravenously to differentiate into neuronal cells for treatment of cerebral palsy. This is not homologous use because there is insufficient evidence to support that such differentiation is a basic function of these cells in the donor.

3-2. The basic functions of the cornea include protecting the eye by forming its outermost layer and serving as the refracting medium of the eye. A corneal graft is transplanted to restore sight in a patient with corneal blindness. This is homologous use because a corneal graft performs the same basic functions in the donor as in the recipient.

3-3. The basic functions of a vein or artery include serving as a conduit for blood flow throughout the body. A cryopreserved vein or artery is used for arteriovenous access during hemodialysis. This is homologous use because the vein or artery is supplementing the vessel as a conduit for blood flow.

3-4. The basic functions of amniotic membrane include covering, protecting, serving as a selective barrier for the movement of nutrients between the external and in utero

6 Bone marrow meets the definition of an HCT/P only if is it more than minimally manipulated; intended by the manufacturer for a non-homologous use, or combined with certain drugs or devices.

Contains Nonbinding Recommendations
Draft – Not for Implementation

environment, and to retain fluid in utero. Amniotic membrane is used for bone tissue replacement to support bone regeneration following surgery to repair or replace bone defects. This is not a homologous use because bone regeneration is not a basic function of amniotic membrane.

3-5. The basic functions of pericardium include covering, protecting against infection, fixing the heart to the mediastinum, and providing lubrication to allow normal heart movement within chest. Autologous pericardium is used to replace a dysfunctional heart valve in the same patient. This is not homologous use because facilitating unidirectional blood flow is not a basic function of pericardium.

  1. Does my HCT/P have to be used in the same anatomic location to perform the same basic function or functions?

An HCT/P may perform the same basic function or functions even when it is not used in the same anatomic location where it existed in the donor.7 A transplanted HCT/P could replace missing tissue, or repair, reconstruct, or supplement tissue that is missing or damaged, either when placed in the same or different anatomic location, as long as it performs the same basic function(s) in the recipient as in the donor.

4-1. The basic functions of skin include covering, protecting the body from external force, and serving as a water-resistant barrier to pathogens or other damaging agents in the external environment. The dermis is the elastic connective tissue layer of the skin that provides a supportive layer of the integument and protects the body from mechanical stress.

  1. An acellular dermal product is used for supplemental support, protection, reinforcement, or covering for a tendon. This is homologous use because in both anatomic locations, the dermis provides support and protects the soft tissue structure from mechanical stress.
  2. An acellular dermal product is used for tendon replacement or repair. This is not homologous use because serving as a connection between muscle and bone is not a basic function of dermis.

4-2. The basic functions of amniotic membrane include serving as a selective barrier for the movement of nutrients between the external and in utero environment and to retain fluid in utero. An amniotic membrane product is used for wound healing of dermal ulcers and defects. This is not homologous use because wound healing of dermal lesions is not a basic function of amniotic membrane.

4-3. The basic functions of pancreatic islets include regulating glucose homeostasis within the body. Pancreatic islets are transplanted into the liver through the portal vein,

7 “Human Cells, Tissues, and Cellular and Tissue-Based Products; Establishment Registration and Listing” 66 FR 5447 at 5458 (January 19, 2001).


Contains Nonbinding Recommendations
Draft – Not for Implementation

for preservation of endocrine function after pancreatectomy. This is homologous use because the regulation of glucose homeostasis is a basic function of pancreatic islets.

  1. What does FDA mean by “intended for homologous use” in 21 CFR 1271.10(a)(2)?

The regulatory criterion in 21 CFR 1271.10(a)(2) states that the HCT/P is intended for homologous use only, as reflected by the labeling, advertising, or other indications of the manufacturer’s objective intent.

Labeling includes the HCT/P label and any written, printed, or graphic materials that supplement, explain, or are textually related to the product, and which are disseminated by or on behalf of its manufacturer.8 Advertising includes information, other than labeling, that originates from the same source as the product and that is intended to supplement, explain, or be textually related to the product (e.g., print advertising, broadcast advertising, electronic advertising (including the Internet), statements of company representatives).9

An HCT/P is intended for homologous use when its labeling, advertising, or other indications of the manufacturer’s objective intent refer to only homologous uses for the HCT/P. When an HCT/P’s labeling, advertising, or other indications of the manufacturer’s objective intent refer to non-homologous uses, the HCT/P would not meet the homologous use criterion in 21 CFR 1271.10(a)(2).

  1. What does FDA mean by “manufacturer’s objective intent” in 21 CFR 1271.10(a)(2)?

A manufacturer’s objective intent is determined by the expressions of the manufacturer or its representatives, or may be shown by the circumstances surrounding the distribution of the article. A manufacturer’s objective intent may, for example, be shown by labeling claims, advertising matter, or oral or written statements by the manufacturer or its representatives. It may be shown by the circumstances that the HCT/P is, with the knowledge of the manufacturer or its representatives, offered for a purpose for which it is neither labeled nor advertised.

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