Oregon Health & Science University’s unique method of transforming a person's own skin cells into stem cells has officially been patented. The United States Patent and Trademark Office, an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, issued the patent earlier this year. Securing a patent is a key step in commercializing discoveries, an important objective for OHSU. Revenue from commercialized discoveries has the potential to bring financial benefit to the university and the state of Oregon.
The procedure, developed by Shoukhrat Mitalipov, Ph.D. at OHSU's Oregon National Primate Research Center, accelerated efforts to generate stem cell therapies for humans. The method involves transplanting the nucleus of the cell, which contains an individual’s DNA, to an egg cell that has had its genetic material removed. This cell then develops into stem cells, which are undifferentiated cells that can transform into various other cell types – the building blocks of an organism. For various reasons and despite numerous attempts, previous efforts by others to clone stem cells in primates had failed repeatedly.
When the breakthrough was announced in November 2007, it received worldwide media attention and was named one of TIME Magazine’s top two research achievements of the year. Many also hailed the procedure because it avoided the need for embryonic stem cells. The use of embryonic stem calls has been the subject of debate for many years.
Since that time, Mitalipov and colleagues have greatly improved their success rates — so much so that a much smaller group of cells (a dozen vs. hundreds) now is required to generate new stem cells.
“We believe our procedure has several advantages over other methods in developing new treatments for diseases such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, cardiac disease and spinal cord injuries,” said Mitalipov, an associate scientist in the Division of Reproductive Sciences at OHSU”s primate center. “For instance, because we transform a person’s own cells, there are no issues of rejection when the stem cells are transplanted back into a patient.”
“In addition to improving the health of all Oregonians, part of OHSU's mission is to impact the economic health of the state,” said Dan Dorsa, Ph.D., vice president for research at OHSU. “In patenting procedures such as this, we ensure that when intellectual contributions of OHSU might be commercialized, some of those funds return to the state to help Oregon's economy and further OHSU's public missions.”