Two new stem cell products being studied to treat a wide range of diseases -
from diabetes to damaged knees



By: L.A. Pacitto

Two Stem Cell products being developed by Cambridge, Ma.-based Genzyme Corp and Columbia, Md.-based Osiris Therapeutics Inc. are currently in clinical trials.   
The two products, Prochymal and Chondrogen, are designed to treat a wide range of diseases - including Crohn's disease, diabetes and osteoarthritic knee pain. Both Prochymal and Chondrogen are derived from mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) taken from the bone marrow of healthy, young adult volunteers, and are not derived from fetal, embryonic or animal donors.

Studies suggest that MSCs are able to move to damaged areas of the body, reduce severe inflammation and work at the cellular level to rebuild damaged tissue. MSCs seem to be universally compatible, similar to Blood Type O, and can be used without tissue type matching for specific patients.
Prochymal, which is administered by infusion into a vein, is currently in clinical trials for a number of indications, such as Type 1 diabetes, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Crohn’s disease and graft-vs.-host disease (GvHD), a life threatening immune condition that can affect cancer patients who have received a bone marrow transplant.

In both GvHD and Crohn's disease, Prochymal is being tested in patients who have failed traditional therapies and have few, if any, treatment options remaining. In the Phase II diabetes trial, the study will evaluate the safety and efficacy of Prochymal in conjunction with standard of care in preserving insulin production in patients recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Genzyme and Osiris have also been awarded a substantial contract In January 2008 from the U.S. Department of Defense to develop Prochymal for acute radiation syndrome
A Phase I/II study of Chondrogen evaluated the safety and efficacy of Chondrogen for meniscal regeneration following partial meniscectomy surgery. Phase II/III trials evaluating Chondrogen for osteoarthritis of the knee are expected to begin soon.

Genzyme developed and commercialized the first-ever FDA-approved cell therapy product, Carticel (autologous cultured chondrocytes), used in knee cartilage repair. The company also manufactures Epicel (cultured epidermal autografts), a cell therapy for treating patients with severe burns.