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UW grads aim to freeze your cells for future organ regeneration

Scientists have discovered a cell in all of our bodies that could be used to regenerate your heart, liver, kidney, and even a limb.  But for it to work effectively, the cells need to be frozen now before you get too old. 

SEATTLE -- Scientists have discovered a cell in all of our bodies that could be used to regenerate your heart, liver, kidney, and even a limb. But for it to work effectively, the cells need to be frozen now before you get too old.

It's not science fiction, but rather a new business for several University of Washington graduates.

miPS Labs wants to freeze these cells today so you can use them when regenerative medicine because mainstream in the future, and when those cells can be put to good use.

"We want to bring this technology to the consumers," says Alex Jiao, miPS co-founder and UW bioengineering PhD candidate.

The startup relies on the advancement of induced pluripotent stem cells known as iPS cells. They were discovered nine years ago, and many scientists believe they will be the building blocks of regenerative medicine in the future.

"We are re-growing hearts in the lab, I have friends that are re-growing pancreases," says Jiao. "Any organ, any limb of an adult can be grown by these iPS cells."

The catch is, the younger the cells, the better the regeneration. So Alex and his team started miPS, essentially a iPS cell bank for when you need the cells, when regenerative technology can really use them decades from now.

"That means those of us in our 20, 30 and 40's right now will have access to that in our 60's and 70's and 80's instead of being the generation that's too late," says Dr. Jenna Strully miPS co-founder and recent UW Foster School of Business graduate.

The company is still working on its business model, but it's planning on charging $300 for a propriety home collection kit and a yearly storage fee of roughly $20.

"We grow the cells for several weeks and grow millions of your cells which are equivalent to the original cells we collected," says Strully. "Then cryo- preserve them meaning we freeze them."

Privacy is important to the company's founders. Only the owner of the iPS cells can use the cells on themselves. Nobody else can use the cells unless they are a very, very close relative says Strully.

"I think the science is fantastic," says Dr. Christopher Allen, Director of UW Human Digit Regeneration Lab. "It eliminates the ethical questions for use of fetal or embryonic cells."

Dr. Allen says iPS technology shows real promise, but says the technology is still in its infancy.

"There's no topside limit to what stem cells and regenerative medicine may be able to do," says Allen.

The company just got $50,000 in funding and some lab space at the UW CoMotion Incubator in Fluke Hall, which proves start-up support for UW-affiliated companies.

miPS is launching a closed beta that will let people freeze iPS cells now and bank them for future use. Your heart may depend on it.

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