This is an interview with Kyle Cetrulo, Founder and CEO of AuxoCell Laboratories, a company specializing in solid tissue processing using its AC:Px System. In addition to heading Auxocell and being a thought-leader on perinatal stem cells, Kyle is an organizer for the upcoming 2nd Annual Perinatal Stem Cell Society Conference that will take place each March in Aspen, CO.
Interview with Kyle Cetrulo of AuxoCell Labs
Cade Hildreth: What are 2-3 of the most exciting recent advances you have seen with perinatal stem cells?
Kyle Cetrulo: I think that the current clinical trials that are being conducted by Dr. Kurtzberg at Duke University for Cerebral Palsy and Dr. Cox at the University of Texas at Houston for tramatic brain injury using cord blood are very exciting. Both of the Principal Investigators on these trials will present on their work at the conference.
Dr. Kurtzberg’s presentation is titled, “Game Changers: Using cord blood to help the brain” and Dr. Cox’s presentation is titled “Developing cellular therapies for neurological injuries: Therapeutic targets.”
Obviously, I hope that benefit is shown in both of these trials as it will improve the lives of countless children. I also think that if these trials are successful that the cord blood banking industry will change dramatically for the better. One of the biggest changes I foresee will be that cord blood collection will become standard of care for all premature babies and potentially for all newborns with an Apgar score of 3 or less at five minutes.
Essentially, what I predict will happen is that for all babies the hospital staff will clamp the placenta/cord and set it aside as they do now for ex-utero collections. The hospital staff will wait for the Apgar score and the cord blood arterial pH level results. If the Apgar score is 3 or less and the cord blood pH level is less than 7.00, then the cord blood will be collected and sent to a cord blood bank for processing, as these results suggest a high prevalence for celebral palsy or other perinatal brain injuries such as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).
Once this collection system is in place in hospitals, cord blood and cord tissue collections will improve across the industry, as the labor delivery staff will be more invested in collecting large cord blood units and in collecting the entire cord tissue, not just a few centimeters, which, unfortunately is what happens regularly today.
In addition to these two clinical trials, there are a few studies that are looking at lungs disorders in newborns such as Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and Broncho Dysplasia. These studies are also very exciting, and again if successful, would save the lives of countless children. A paper from Dr. Chambers at the Prince Charles Hospital and School of Medicine at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, highlights the first in man study utilizing placenta derived mesenchymal stem cells to treat Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.
Another paper out of the Monash Institute of Medical Research in Victoria, Australia, does an outstanding job of reviewing cell-based therapies for the preterm infant. Dr. Euan Wallace, an author on this paper, will present on Amnion derived stem cells in a presentation titled “Panacea or Aceso: amnion cells and injury repair”.
Additionally, we are lucky to also have Professor Richard Boyd, who is the Group Leader of Stem Cells and Immune Regeneration laboratory at Monash University, who will give a talk titled “Cytokine and growth factor profiles of placental stem cells and newborn plasma: opportunities for regenerative medicine.”
I personally think that these papers are some of the more exciting developments in the past year and we are fortunate to have some of these outstanding world-class scientists presenting at the conference.
Cade Hildreth: Ten to twenty years from now, what do you see as the future of perinatal stem cells?
Kyle Cetrulo: Perinatal stem cell therapies can and will be used to treat newborn illnesses and will save countless lives. These therapies will alleviate a lot of suffering first and foremost, and I see this happening sooner, more like 3 to 5 years.
As far as 10-20 years from now, I like to imagine what the future holds for my children who are 4 and 6 years old now. As a believer in perinatal stem cells, I practice what I preach. For each child, I saved the cord blood, the placental blood, the placental tissue, the cord tissue as a cellular product and the cord tissue as a tissue product for both children. I then also created a Master and a Working cell bank of cord tissue derived stem cells for each child.
I imagine that they will use these cells for standard sports-related injuries, at a minimum. Last summer my 6 year old broke his arm, and I was very frustrated that I couldn’t just thaw some of the cells and inject them into the break after it was set. Although I never really considered doing that, as a lot more research needs to be done before that becomes an option, it did cross my mind that in ten years, the orthopedic surgeon probably will do a similar procedure with autologous stem cells, but more likely with an off the shelf allogeneic product that he thaws right in his office.
Cade Hildreth: In your opinion, who are the current thought-leaders (“influencers”) in this space?
Kyle Cetrulo: I believe that everyone one of the speakers on the program is a major thought leader in the field. I have already mentioned, Dr. Kurtzberg, Dr. Cox, Dr. Wallace and Dr. Boyd who will all be presenting at the conference. I would also like to highlight two more speakers.
The first one is Dr. Ornella Parolini, who is the President of the International Placenta Stem Cell Society, which is a group that the Perinatal Stem Cell Society considers a sister society because it shares the same goals as we do. Dr. Parolini will give a presentation titled “Immunomodulatory properties of the amniotic membrane derivatives: key mechanisms of their therapeutic effects.”
The other thought leader is Dr. Stephen Strom who is a Professor at the Karolinska Institute. Dr. Strom will give a lecture titled “Stem Cell Therapy for Liver Disease.” I recently spoke with Dr. Strom, and he hopes to have first and man data to present at the conference using amnion epithelial stem cells to treat liver disease.
Cade Hildreth: What inspired you to start the Perinatal Stem Cell Society Conference?
Kyle Cetrulo: The Perinatal Stem Cell Society was born out of two books that I edited along with the other founders of the Society. These two books are “Perinatal Stem Cells” and “Perinatal Stem Cell, Second Edition.” Everyone who attends the conference receives a free download of “Perinatal Stem Cells, Second Edition.”
We discovered that after we finished the books, the wind left our sails a little bit and that all of the hard work that we put into the books just stopped. As the science was advancing forward, we wanted to do more with the relationships that we developed during the creation of the books. The idea of a society and annual conferences focused on the topic of Perinatal Stem Cells really interested us and we felt that there wasn’t another meeting in the United States that focused exclusively on perinatal stem cells. So in 2013, we formed a 501(c)(3) organization called the International Perinatal Stem Cell Society, Inc.
The goal of the Perinatal Stem Cell Society is to create a place online and face-to-face where scientists and people working in the perinatal field can convene and meet each other to collaborate and advance the field.
The motto of the Perinatal Stem Cell Society is “Advancing perinatal stem cell research on the path toward treatment,” and I think that motto accurately sums up the goals of the society. Because Auxocell is a company specializing in solid tissue processing, including umbilical cord tissue processing, we greatly value our involvement with the society.
At the end of the day, it is important to remember that the patient who is need of a stem cell therapy is, and should be, the driving force behind everything that we do. Membership in the Society is free, so I encourage anyone interested in the Society to become a member.
Cade Hildreth: What aspect of the conference most excites you?
Kyle Cetrulo: Although I am very excited to hear our Key Note speaker on Wednesday evening, Dr. Randal Mills, the President of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). I think what I am looking forward to most is the Friday session, which has seven presentations focused on cord tissue derived stem cells.
These talks include Dr. Kang-Hsi Wu who is the Chief of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Children’s Hospital of China Medical University, Taiwan. Dr. Wu will give a presentation titled “Clinical application of mesenchymal stem cells derived from umbilical cord in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.”
Dr. Wu previously published first in man data using cord tissue derived stem cells to enhance cord blood transplantation, and I am hoping that he has even more data to share at the conference. I am looking forward to the other six cord tissue talks as well. The Sports Medicine Panel on Thursday evening is also very exciting.
Cade Hildreth: In your mind, what would define this conference as a “success”?
Kyle Cetrulo: There is only one way that I will define success for this conference and that is if all of the attendees, speakers, and sponsors all say that this was the greatest conference that they have ever attended and that they are ready to do it again next year. I believe that we have everything in place to make this happen.
It obviously all starts with the scientific program. The full Program can be found here. I hope that this program inspires all of the attendees.
Second, we have an amazing venue. Aspen Meadows is where the Aspen Institute holds their annual meetings and is set on 40 acres in beautiful Aspen, CO. All of the facilities are first-class across the board, from each room at the resort being a suite, to the exceptional food, to the driver who will meet every attendee at the airport.
Additionally, I personally consider everyone involved in this conference to be my personal guest and will not stop until we are successful and I hear that this was the greatest conference that the attendees have ever attended.
To learn more about the upcoming Perinatal Stem Cells Conference, including speakers and full schedule of events, please visit: www.perinatalstemcells.com.