An innovative treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee led by researchers from the IMPACT Center was presented in the United States and France, before experts in cell therapy from all over the world. It involves the use of extracellular vesicles in patients with osteoarthritis, a disease that in our country has a prevalence of 14.4% in the population aged 55 years and older, according to data from the National Health Survey 2016-2017. The outstanding research, which is in the clinical study phase, has the first patient, a Chilean woman, to receive this novel therapy unique in the world. For IMPACT’s director, Dr. Maroun Khoury, this type of study is a sample of what the Center of Excellence hopes to contribute to the country: “IMPACT aspires to reach all patients in Chile by transforming advanced therapies from inaccessible, expensive and complicated to accessible, affordable and simple,” he says.
The results of the research were presented at the annual meetings of the International Society for Cell Therapy (ISCT) and the International Society for Extracellular Vesicles (ISEV) held last May in the cities of San Francisco (USA) and Lyon (France), respectively.
The principal investigator, Dr. Francisca Alcayaga, presented to the ISEV her work with extracellular vesicles derived from menstrual cells with an anti-tumor effect on different types of cancer. “This effect is mainly due to the fact that they inhibit the formation of blood vessels (anti-angiogenic effect) that feed and oxygenate the tumor, thus causing the death of the tumor mass. During the ISEV congress, we presented the mechanism of action of these extracellular vesicles, i.e. the way in which these vesicles induce this anti-angiogenic effect,” explains the expert.
In addition, at the ISCT meeting held in the United States, representatives from different continents presented the different realities of the question “Are cell and gene therapies an exclusive luxury of the first world? The panel included Dr. Maroun Khoury, director of the IMPACT Center, together with experts from the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Dr. Michael Pepper (South Africa), and from Novartis, Dr. Tay Salimullah, (United States), who agreed that, unfortunately, low-income countries have neither access to nor availability of advanced therapies. .
During the presentation, the researchers pointed out that there are currently more than 60 cell and gene therapies approved in the European Union, the United States and Japan, which are safe and effective against various diseases but are not available for many countries due to their high costs. “The representative from Africa highlighted the critical need for access to this type of treatment in a population with more than 19% of adults between the ages of 15 and 49 living with HIV. My belief, since the idea of our center of excellence with direct patient impact was born, is that through multidisciplinary partnerships and strong leadership, we will find a way to apply advanced medicine-which today is exorbitantly priced-beyond high-income countries,” explains Dr. Khoury.
IMPACT is committed to changing this reality by being bold in “generating a strategic shift to bring life-saving innovations related to tissue engineering, cellular, immune and gene therapies as a novel solution to unmet medical needs in our country. We are at a pivotal moment to demonstrate how we can scale up these transformative therapies throughout Chile,” says Dr. Khoury.
The IMPACT Center is led by the Universidad de Los Andes and has funding from the National Agency for Innovation and Development, ANID; the participation of the Pontificia Universidad Católica, Universidad de Chile, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, and Universidad de La Frontera, as well as the collaboration of the Clínica Universidad de Los Andes.