Cline Scientific is an innovative life science company focusing on the use of nanotechnology and nanoscale surface gradients to improve stem cell and cancer research.
Cell research plays a powerful role in the life sciences, whether it’s as a tool for producing biological drugs, as the basis of cell-based therapeutics, or to understand the basis of cancer metastasis.
Cline Scientific, led by Patrik Sundh, president, CEO and co-founder, is using nanoscale surface engineering to support cell biology research, through two main applications; stem cell differentiation and culture, and migration in cancer cell research. The goal is to, in the near future, adapt the same surface technologies for the production of cell based therapies as well as cell based cancer diagnostics.
Stem cell culture: Facing the differentiation challenge
Researchers have been able to culture stem cells for twenty years or more, and successfully allow them to differentiate into different cell types. However, these differentiated populations are often not homogenous and there can still be pluripotent cells present able to divide uncontrollably and form teratoma, a form of cancer, if implanted in patients.
“This heterogeneity means that it is hard to get approval for these cells as therapeutics, limiting their use to terminally ill patients and people with no other treatment choices,” said Sundh.
The challenge in creating stem cell-based treatments, therefore, is to be able to differentiate cells into just the required cell type, for example insulin-producing cells or cartilage cells. Cline Scientific’s approach uses the finding that, when growing stem cells, even slight differences in the surface composition can create different functional cells. When cells are grown on Cline Scientific’s nanogradients, researchers can locate their differentiated cells of choice and then analyse the surface at that precise area, so finding the optimal growing surface for that specific cell type.
“We can design the surfaces just as the researcher needs,” says Sundh. “At the molecular level, stem cells can be sensitive to just a few molecules. Our approach allows the cells to select their preferred concentration and density.”
Many biologic drugs are developed in a lab with one set of tools, then scaled up for clinical development and then manufacturing with different tools. Because stem cells are so sensitive to their environment, this can make the transition difficult to handle. Sundh believes that Cline Scientific can scale up the optimal surface, recreating it on a larger scale. This could ease the transfer between phases and to manufacturing, and help with regulatory discussions.
Migration in cancer stem cell research
As cancer science and medicine has advanced, oncologists are getting better and better at treating primary tumours. However, as Sundh explains, the same isn’t true once tumours have started to metastasise: “Few people die from their primary tumours. However, 90% or more of the cancer deaths are in people with metastatic disease. The challenge is that it is hard to tell when the cancer starts spreading, and to stop the process when it has begun.”
In cooperation with a customer who was studying how tumour cells migrated from the primary tumour to other parts of the body to create metastases, Cline Scientific created a gradient surface for the researchers to investigate if their cells migrate, and if so, how far and how fast.
“At the moment this is a research tool, but depending on the outcomes it has great potential as a diagnostic,” said Sundh.
Cline Scientific: A role in the future of stem cell research
Stem cell research is a complex and growing field, and understanding the power of stem cells will be a vital part of cancer research, diagnosis and treatment, and of other life sciences fields including regenerative medicine. Cline Scientific’s approach will allow researchers and therapeutics development teams to move stem cell research forward in an efficient and cost-effective manner.