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VistaGen Therapeutics, Inc. (VSTA) Announces Identification of Cell Surface Marker that Permits High-Yield Purification of Human Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Cardiomyocytes

VistaGen Therapeutics, Inc., a biotechnology company applying stem cell technology for drug rescue and cell therapy, just announced the publication of original research funded by the Company that identifies an antibody useful in the identification and purification of cardiac progenitors and cardiomyocytes.

The research, titled “Novel Use for SIRPA as a Specific Cell Surface Marker for the Isolation of Human Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Cardiomyocytes,” stems from research funded in part by VistaGen and conducted by a collaborative team led by Dr. Gordon Keller at the University Health Network’s McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Toronto. The results of these studies were published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nature Biotechnology, on October 23, 2011.

“The identification and use of the SIRPA antibody permits us to select the very earliest human cardiac progenitors, as well as mature cardiomyocytes, and study the important role of non-cardiomyocytes in the function and maturation of cardiomyocytes,” said Dr. Ralph Snodgrass, President and Chief Scientific Officer of VistaGen. “Using this antibody, we can produce human cardiomyocytes with greater than 95% purity, without genetically modifying the cells and without antibiotic selection, which is a significant step forward for our cardiotoxicity bioassay system, CardioSafe 3D™, and our cell therapy initiatives.”

The Keller team identified human cardiomyocyte specific markers by screening human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-derived cardiovascular populations with known antibodies. From this screen, the signal-regulatory protein alpha (SIRPΑ) was identified as a marker expressed specifically on hESC and induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived cardiomyocytes and their precursors. Cell sorting and selection with the SIRPA antibody allowed for the enrichment of cardiac precursors and cardiomyocytes from hESC/iPSC differentiation cultures, yielding populations of up to 98% cardiac troponin T-positive cells. SIRPA-positive cells, when cultured, express the expected markers, transcription factors and cytoskeletal markers of cardiomyocytes, and can be maintained in culture for extended periods of time. These findings provide, for the first time, a simple method for isolating some of the earliest populations of cardiac precursors and mature cardiomyocytes from human pluripotent stem cell cultures. This readily adaptable technology offers a viable approach for generating large numbers of enriched, non-genetically modified, cardiomyocytes for numerous therapeutic applications.

Through its long-standing collaboration with Dr. Gordon Keller, who is also Chairman of the Company’s Scientific Advisory Board, and a license agreement with the University Health Network, VistaGen has exclusive worldwide rights to intellectual property arising from this research conducted by Dr. Keller’s laboratory. These studies, funded by VistaGen, are part of the Company’s Human Clinical Trials in a Test Tubetm platform, which has proprietary applications in drug screening, cell therapy, and regenerative medicine.

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