Antioxidant could boost cell-based therapies

Cell therapies being developed to treat a range of conditions could be improved by a chemical compound that aids their survival, research suggests.

Lab tests found that the man-made molecule – a type of antioxidant – helps to shield healthy cells from damage such as would be caused when they are transplanted into a patient during cell therapy.

Such procedures are already used to treat people with blood disorders as well as to grow skin grafts for patients with severe burns.

New compound

The newly tested compound is 10 times more effective at protecting cells from damage than the most powerful antioxidant found in nature, the study found. 

As many as 90 per cent of cells can be damaged or killed during the transplantation process. This can affect the likelihood of the treatment’s success.

Cell transplant

Experts say that pre-treating cells before they are transplanted into patients could help to improve success rates of cell-based therapies.

Researchers are seeking to develop such approaches to treat conditions including Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

Damage protection

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh exposed cells to a toxic substance, mimicking the shock that cells experience when transplanted.

They then tested whether treating cells with antioxidants could protect them from damage.

They found the new synthetic compound – called Proxison – rescued as many as 90 per cent of cells from death.

Potent effect

Studies with zebrafish also found the man-made super-antioxidant can protect cells from death in a living animal.

More than 10 times the concentration of the most powerful natural antioxidant tested was needed to achieve the same result.

We found Proxison to be a potent antioxidant that is very effective at protecting cells from oxidative stress and free radical damage.

Dr Tilo KunathMedical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine

Therapy hope

Researchers are interested in whether antioxidants can help boost the chances that a range of cell therapies will work.

Many more patients may be able to benefit from these treatments if cell survival could be significantly improved.

Proxison was developed by the Aberdeen-based biotechnology company Antoxis, which provided funding for the study.


The new antioxidant was designed based on a natural compound found in fruit and vegetables.

The team made small modifications to the chemical structure to generate a super-antioxidant that they hope to develop into a potential new drug.

The research is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

This excellent work in Edinburgh provides a significant step forward with the potential to increase the efficacy of transplanted cells in patients and allow more patients to be treated from precious resources.

Professor Andy PorterChair, Antoxis Ltd

Related links

Journal article

MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine

Edinburgh Medical School

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