May 20, 2024

MIT Scientists Develop New Regenerative Drug That Reverses Hearing Loss

These images reveal cellular regeneration, in pink, in a preclinical model of sensorineural hearing loss. The control is on the left and the right has actually been dealt with. Credit: Hinton AS, Yang-Hood A, Schrader AD, Loose C, Ohlemiller KK, McLean WJ.
MIT spinout Frequency Therapeutics drug prospect stimulates the growth of hair cells in the inner ear.
The biotechnology company Frequency Therapeutics is looking for to reverse hearing loss– not with hearing aids or implants, however with a brand-new type of regenerative treatment. The company utilizes small particles to program progenitor cells, a descendant of stem cells in the inner ear, to produce the small hair cells that allow us to hear.
Hair cells pass away off when exposed to loud sounds or drugs including particular chemotherapies and prescription antibiotics. Frequencys drug candidate is created to be injected into the ear to regrow these cells within the cochlea. In clinical trials, the company has actually already improved peoples hearing as determined by tests of speech perception– the capability to comprehend speech and recognize words.

Frequencys drug prospect is designed to be injected into the ear to regenerate these cells within the cochlea. These two images show that one of Frequencys lead compounds, FREQ-162, drives progenitor cells to turn into oligodendrocytes. Progenitor cells live in the inner ear and produce hair cells when humans are in utero, but they become dormant before birth and never ever again turn into more specific cells such as the hair cells of the cochlea. In 2012, the research study team was able to utilize little molecules to turn progenitor cells into thousands of hair cells in the lab. Progenitor cells already turn into the myelin-producing cells in the brain, however not quick enough to keep up with losses sustained by MS patients.

” Speech perception is the No. 1 goal for improving hearing and the No. 1 requirement we hear from patients,” states Frequency co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer Chris Loose PhD 07.
In Frequencys first medical research study, the company saw statistically significant enhancements in speech understanding in some individuals after a single injection, with some actions lasting almost 2 years.
The business has dosed more than 200 clients to date and has seen scientifically meaningful enhancements in speech perception in three different scientific research studies. Another research study failed to reveal improvements in hearing compared to the placebo group, however the business associates that result to flaws in the design of the trial.
Now Frequency is hiring for a 124-person trial from which preliminary results should be offered early next year.
These two images reveal that one of Frequencys lead substances, FREQ-162, drives progenitor cells to turn into oligodendrocytes. The control is on the right and the left has been treated. Credit: Frequency Therapeutics
The businesss creators, consisting of Loose, MIT Institute Professor Robert Langer, CEO David Lucchino MBA 06, Senior Vice President Will McLean PhD 14, and Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology affiliate professors member Jeff Karp, are currently gratified to have been able to assist individuals enhance their hearing through the trials. They also believe theyre making important contributions toward fixing a problem that impacts more than 40 million people in the U.S. and numerous millions more around the globe.
” Hearing is such an important sense; it links people to their neighborhood and cultivates a sense of identity,” states Karp, who is likewise a professor of anesthesia at Brigham and Womens Hospital. “I believe the possible to restore hearing will have massive impact on society.”
From the laboratory to clients
In 2005, Lucchino was an MBA student in the MIT Sloan School of Management and Loose was a PhD prospect in chemical engineering at MIT. Langer introduced the two aspiring business owners, and they began working on what would end up being Semprus BioSciences, a medical gadget business that won the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition and later on cost a deal valued at as much as $80 million.
Frequency Therapeutics co-founders Will McLean, PhD recipient at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST), David Lucchino MBA 06, Jeff Karp, PhD, HST affiliate professors and Professor at Brigham and Womens Hospital, and Chris Loose, PhD 07. Frequency went public on the Nasdaq on October 3, 2019. Credit: Courtesy of Frequency Therapeutics
” MIT has such a wonderful environment of individuals interested in new endeavors that originate from different backgrounds, so were able to assemble teams of individuals with varied skills rapidly,” Loose states.
Eight years after playing matchmaker for Lucchino and Loose, Langer began dealing with Karp to study the lining of the human gut, which regenerates itself almost every day.
With MIT postdoc Xiaolei Yin, who is now a scientific advisor to Frequency, the scientists found that the same molecules that manage the guts stem cells are likewise used by a close descendant of stem cells called progenitor cells. Like stem cells, progenitor cells can develop into more customized cells in the body.
” Every time we make an advance, we take an action back and ask how this could be even larger,” Karp says. “Its easy to be incremental, however how do we take what we found out and make a huge difference?”
Progenitor cells reside in the inner ear and produce hair cells when human beings are in utero, but they end up being inactive prior to birth and never again develop into more specialized cells such as the hair cells of the cochlea. Human beings are born with about 15,000 hair cells in each cochlea. Such cells die over time and never ever restore.
In 2012, the research group was able to utilize small particles to turn progenitor cells into thousands of hair cells in the lab. Karp says no one had ever produced such a large number of hair cells prior to. He still keeps in mind looking at the results while visiting his family, including his father, who uses a listening devices.
” I took a look at them and stated, I think we have a development,” Karp says. “Thats the very first and only time Ive used that phrase.”
The advance sufficed for Langer to play matchmaker once again and bring Loose and Lucchino into the fold to start Frequency Therapeutics.
The creators think their method– injecting small particles into the inner ear to turn progenitor cells into more customized cells– offers benefits over gene treatments, which might depend on drawing out a clients cells, programming them in a laboratory, and after that providing them to the right location.
” Tissues throughout your body include progenitor cells, so we see a huge series of applications,” Loose says. “We believe this is the future of regenerative medication.”
Advancing regenerative medication
Frequencys creators have actually been enjoyed watch their lab work mature into an impactful drug prospect in scientific trials.
” Some of these people [in the trials] could not hear for 30 years, and for the first time they said they could go into a crowded restaurant and hear what their children were stating,” Langer states. “Its so meaningful to them. Undoubtedly more requires to be done, but just the fact that you can help a little group of people is truly outstanding to me.”
Karp believes Frequencys work will advance researchers ability to manipulate progenitor cells and result in brand-new treatments down the line.
“I believe well see the same thing for hearing loss.”
The company is likewise establishing a drug for numerous sclerosis (MS), an illness in which the body immune system attacks the myelin in the brain and central nerve system. Progenitor cells already turn into the myelin-producing cells in the brain, however not fast sufficient to keep up with losses sustained by MS clients. The majority of MS treatments focus on reducing the immune system instead of generating myelin.
Early versions of that drug candidate have actually revealed remarkable increases in myelin in mouse studies. The company expects to file an investigational new drug application for MS with the FDA next year.
” When we were conceiving of this task, we indicated for it to be a platform that could be broadly suitable to numerous tissues. Now were moving into the remyelination work, and to me its the idea of the iceberg in regards to what can be done by taking small molecules and managing regional biology,” Karp states.
For now, Karp is already delighted with Frequencys development, which struck house the last time he remained in Frequencys workplace and met a speaker who shared her experience with hearing loss.
” You always hope your work will have an effect, but it can take a long time for that to happen,” Karp says. “Its been an extraordinary experience dealing with the team to bring this forward. There are already individuals in the trials whose hearing has actually been considerably improved and their lives have actually been changed. That impacts interactions with friends and family. Its wonderful to be a part of.”