When the future comes, will you be ready?

Few things capture our imagination like the advancement of technology. Whether its focus is science, transportation, communications, or any other pursuit, innovation moves humanity forward. Today, most people carry in their pockets devices with computing power that far exceeds anything that we could have imagined a few decades ago. Electric self-driving cars are present in every major city around the globe, and manned missions to Mars are on the horizon.

Time and time again, human ingenuity and talent have made the impossible happen. This is true in many fields, including healthcare. Our lifespan and quality of life have vastly improved over the last century and will continue to do so. Think, for example, of the healthcare system your parents were born into. Compare that to what you have experienced throughout your life –and the rate of change is accelerating exponentially.

The tools at our disposal

Two of the most exciting discoveries in the field of medicine are iPSCs and CRISPR. These technologies are powering innovations that have allowed us to shift our focus in healthcare from reactionary to preventative. They hold the promise of treating and eliminating disease before the first symptom.

The first acronym stands for ‘Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells’. It refers to the ability to take an adult cell and reprogram it to behave like an embryonic stem cell. This means that it now has the potential to become any cell type in the human body.

CRISPR, short for ‘Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats’, is essentially cut and paste for the human genome. If you have a segment of code that is not performing properly or is causing disease, with this tool you are able to go in and edit out that gene, replacing it with a properly functioning one. As a result, you can avoid the problem altogether.

Treating disease in the future

These tools are currently being used by teams of scientists around the world in clinical trials aimed at producing treatments for a number of diseases. There are over 1,000 trials taking place at the moment, the majority of which focus on gene therapy and gene-modified cell therapy.

An exciting example is a study on the treatment of Parkinson’s disease using autologous neural stem cells. We have all seen the impact that this neurodegenerative disease can have on the quality of life of people who develop it. The symptoms range from uncontrollable shaking to difficulty walking and stiffness. Having a potential treatment in the coming years would be life-changing for the 10 million people currently living with the disease worldwide. The estimated completion date of this study, according to the scientists from the First People’s Hospital of Yunnan Province in China, is early 2021.

Another medical condition that researchers are working on is macular degeneration. This is the progressive wearing down of photoreceptor cells in the retina leading to blindness. Scientists at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Maryland are testing replacing these cells with healthy retina cells derived from iPSCs.

Creating organs on demand

If treating Parkinson’s and macular degeneration are appealing possibilities, imagine being able to 3D print a human heart. That is what researchers at Tel Aviv University have done. They managed to create the world’s first 3D-printed heart using a patient’s own cells and biological materials. To start, they created a smaller version, about the size of a rabbit heart. It was complete with blood vessels, ventricles, and chambers. They accomplished this by taking a sample of tissue, reprogramming the cells to become pluripotent (iPSCs), and transforming them into the cells that make up the heart muscle.

This is a major breakthrough. Hearts created in that way can completely match the immunological, cellular, biochemical, and anatomical properties of the patient. What this means is that once this technology is available, patients will no longer have to wait for a donor. Additionally, there will be no rejections of the transplanted organs since they will contain the patient’s own cells. It is extremely exciting given that cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death in industrialized nations.

Conclusion

These are just a few examples of what the future holds for regenerative medicine. Ongoing trials encompass therapeutic areas across the human body. These include oncology (cancer treatments), neurological disorders, gastroenterology, cardiovascular disorders, and even responses to infectious disease.

In short, the possibilities are endless. Having the tools to theoretically treat any disease imaginable will change our lives and our societies in more ways than we can imagine today. The first step anyone looking to take advantage of these future therapies should take is banking their cells. In doing so, they can ensure that doctors will have the best possible material to work with once these treatments are available.

To take advantage of cell banking, head to Acorn’s lab headquarters in the MaRS Centre in Downtown Toronto. You can also sign up to order the world’s first affordable, accessible, live-cell home collection kit.

How medicine has gone from reactionary to preventative

Most of us take our health for granted. It is only when we feel unwell that doctors, nurses, and hospitals come to mind. We think of science and medicine as a means to cure diseases but very seldom think about it in terms of prevention. There is good reason for that. While medicine has had great success in preventing certain diseases with tools like vaccination, our healthcare system is largely based on treating conditions after they have developed.

There is nothing inherently wrong with that. Like any other industry, our healthcare system is a reflection of our current capabilities. It is mostly reactionary because that is the nature of the tools that we have at our disposal. That is not to say the results have been anything short of amazing. Every year, more than 100,000 organs are transplanted worldwide. Additionally, millions of people recover from life-threatening diseases thanks to a wide array of treatments. That being said, we are still waiting for people to get sick before seeking treatment.

The shift towards a preventative approach

Focusing on the preventative aspect of medicine has taken us even further. The main resources that health professionals have at their disposal are regular checkups and the promotion of healthy habits. The former is limited by what a doctor can see at the time and the latter is often too broad. It is hard to produce individualized recommendations without evidence of something going wrong with a patient.

Of course, visiting your primary care doctor every year and adopting healthy habits —exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate rest— are important to preserve your health. But imagine how useful it would be to know in advance precisely which diseases you will confront in the future. Now consider the possibility that through science and technology we could eradicate those diseases before the first symptoms appear. That is the promise of regenerative medicine and genetic engineering.

Woman in blue scrub suit helping woman sitting on bed by conducting a preventive health checkup
Regular health checkups and the promotion of healthy habits have been the main preventive health mechanism. There are now new opportunities you can take to prepare for preventive and precision medicine.

Getting a leg up on disease

The cornerstone of any successful strategy to prevent disease is reliable information. To obtain it you have to look no further than your own cells. They contain several layers of information that can potentially give scientists the ability to identify the conditions that you are most likely to face in your lifetime.

In the future, if your doctor could anticipate that you are going to experience Cystic Fibrosis, for instance, they could act long before the appearance of the first symptoms. One potential way to do this would be through CRISPR technology. It is a tool that allows for gene editing. Scientists could use it to take out the genes that would otherwise lead you to develop the illness. As a result, you would not have to wait for the problem to emerge before taking action.

The first step you must take to put yourself in a position to benefit from these advances is to have your cells banked as soon as possible. Extracting cells may sound daunting, but it is as simple as plucking hairs from your head. By preserving your cells at their youngest (today) and in advance of illness, you are securing the healthiest version of your cells for the future when you will need them most. Once our scientists analyze them and consider them viable, they will freeze them down in liquid nitrogen (at -190°C) to stop their aging process. When you need them either for analytical purposes or for treatment, they will be there waiting for you, as young and healthy as the day you saved them.

Looking to the future

Considering the amount of research currently underway, the future of preventative medicine looks bright. Although making predictions can be difficult, Dr. Drew Taylor, PhD, MSc, co-founder of Acorn, is confident that we will see this research give rise to mainstream treatments in the coming years and decades. ‘We are entering the era of regenerative medicine. In the coming years, more and more cell-based therapies will be discovered and help countless people across the globe. We are already seeing cell-based therapies help people today. I banked my wife’s and my cells to make sure we will be able to have access to these treatments. But I have banked our children’s as well, and I can’t even imagine what will be possible in their lifetimes’.

The latest scientific advancements have the power to shift the focus of healthcare from reactionary to preventative. Armed with insights into their future, individuals will, for the first time, be in a position to address the causes of disease and prevent it from manifesting.

To learn more about cell banking, its benefits, and pricing, click here.

The Best Time to Bank Your Cells Is Today

Your own live cells are the single most valuable resource for future medical treatment. Thanks to the advances in the field of regenerative medicine, scientists now have the tools to use them to theoretically treat any disease imaginable. One thing to keep in mind is that the sooner you bank your cells, and shield them from aging, the greater their therapeutic potential will be.

While it is certainly exciting, trying to stay up to date with the constant advancements of science and technology can be overwhelming. There is just too much information out there. To make matters worse, the language researchers use while publishing their findings in scientific journals, can be unintelligible.

Fortunately, you don’t need an MD or PhD to know that we are on the brink of a medical revolution. You may have heard about regenerative medicine. It is a field of study concerned with the reengineering of human cells to form tissues and organs. Its goal is to develop treatments for an endless variety of medical conditions. This field is expanding at a rapid pace. It has the potential to completely transform our approach to health and medicine in general.

The future of medicine will be cell-based

At the center of this revolution is the ability to take a sample of a person’s cells and transform them into whatever tissue or organ a patient requires for treatment. For a long time, sourcing these cells proved to be a difficult task. Researchers could not simply take any cell in the body since, by the time they have matured, cells become differentiated and specialized. Only stem cells retain their potential to become any type of cell required.

There are a few viable methods of stem cell extraction, including bone marrow harvesting and liposuction. However, they are inconvenient, expensive, and painful for the patient. In addition, these types of stem cells were multipotent, but could not become any and every cell in the body. Thankfully, researchers John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka discovered a way to program mature cells to become pluripotent —they received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2012 for this discovery. What this means is that scientists can now take adult cells and make them behave like stem cells. This process restores their transformative potential.

Based on this finding, researchers at Acorn concluded that hair follicles are an effective source of cells for banking. They are therapeutically-capable and can be grown consistently in the lab. Their extraction is simple, convenient, affordable, non-invasive, and painless. You can either head to Acorn’s lab headquarters in Downtown Toronto to provide a sample or do it in the comfort of your home. If you order a live cell collection kit, all you have to do is pluck your own hairs, follow the instructions in the box and ship it back to Acorn for processing.

The right time to bank your cells

There is something to keep in mind if you are considering banking your cells: time is of the essence. As we age, our cells deteriorate. This means that their ability to function and perform their jobs slowly diminishes. The result is that they lose some of their therapeutic potential. Your cells at 20 years old are much better than at 50 —likewise, they are much better at 50 than at 80.

Should I bank my cells if I am over 50? Yes, absolutely. They are in a much better state now than they will be in the future. If you decided to bank them today and were to need them at 60, you will have shielded them from 10 years worth of damage. This is because at -190°C, cellular metabolism, and with it the aging process, stops. The best timepoint to bank your cells is today, regardless of age.

Take advantage of the information contained in your cells

What if I never require a procedure that involves stem cells? You will still benefit from next-generation analytics. Most people are familiar with DNA home testing kits. These tests capture dead cells from saliva that are unusable in cell therapy but can reveal ancestry. This is just one of the many layers of information contained within your cells. The other layers are only accessible through live cell collection. That is what Acorn offers.

Our DNA does not normally change, but there are many layers of information in our cells, including epigenetics, transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics that are changing throughout our lives. Having a sample taken today allows you to plot the difference in these layers over time as new analytical tests become available. This can help predict what diseases you may face later in life. Equipped with this knowledge, you can modify your behavior and adopt healthier habits. This would help to increase your healthspan for as long as possible.

In the future, you will even have the possibility to have faulty genetic code edited out with tools like CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats). This mechanism is essentially ‘cut and paste’ for the human genome.

Thanks to a multitude of therapies currently in development, it will be possible to eradicate a latent disease long before the first symptoms appear. That is the promise of regenerative medicine and genetic engineering.

The bottom line is this: the sooner you take action and have your live cells cryopreserved, the better prepared you will be to take advantage of the revolution of regenerative medicine that is coming. It is the ultimate investment.

To learn more about the benefits of banking your cells at Acorn and get pricing options, click here.

Investing in the Ultimate Health Insurance Policy

We can all understand the importance of having the right insurance policy to protect our property and well-being from potential risks. Science now provides the possibility to invest in protection at a cellular level. Find out how Acorn gives you the best chance to capitalize on the advancements of regenerative medicine.

Experience has taught us that it is a smart choice to plan for future contingencies. It is not a matter of expecting things to go wrong but preparing ourselves in the event that they do. While there is much that we can do to minimize our risk in different situations —passing a driving test to ascertain our skills behind the wheel to prevent car accidents, or reducing our consumption of processed meals to avoid unhealthy weight gain— even the most cautious and health-conscious among us can see the value in auto and health insurance. The same principle applies to life, home, disability, and loan insurance.

Insurance for the 21st century

Recent advances in the field of medicine have opened the door to a new type of insurance that just a few decades ago would have seemed like science fiction: biologic insurance. This is possible via stem cell banking. You may have heard of stem cells before. Unlike adult cells, which have become specialized, stem cells have the potential to become any type of cell in the body.

Up until a few years ago, garnering stem cells required invasive and painful procedures such as bone marrow extraction. Additionally, these types of stem cells are multipotent, but do not have the ability to become any type of cell in the body. Fortunately, researchers have found a way to induce pluripotency in mature cells. This means that they can now take cells from hair follicles and program them to behave like stem cells. Thanks to this process, your cells have the potential to become whatever type of cell you need for medical treatment.

Let’s say you find yourself in need of an organ in a few decades. If you have not thought ahead and banked your cells, you will have to join a waitlist, along with thousands of patients, and hope for a match. Even then, there would still be a risk of rejection. You could simply have your cells banked then, right? You could, but their potential would be severely reduced. As we age, our cells begin to deteriorate. It is a normal process. However, this means that by the time you need them they may be too damaged to function as a healthcare resource.

How you can take advantage of this technology

By banking your cells today, you can shield them from the damage caused by aging. Once you provide a sample that the scientists at Acorn consider viable, they will preserve your cells under carefully controlled conditions. When you need them, they will be as young and healthy as they were the day you took your sample.

So what exactly can this biologic insurance protect against? Taking adult cells and turning them into the building blocks of the human body allows for endless applications. There are over 1,000 clinical trials taking place at the moment that aim at treating a multitude of conditions. These include musculoskeletal and spinal cord injuries, as well as diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Just like any other field of study propelled by advancements in technology, regenerative medicine is constantly expanding and we are barely scratching the surface of its potential. Scientists now have the tools to theoretically treat any disease imaginable. It is just a matter of time before treatments become widely available. When that happens, those who have banked their cells in advance will be in a better position to take advantage of these treatments.

Investing in the future

This is not the first time that we as a society have had the opportunity to invest in scientific and technological advances that seem far-fetched at first but become commonplace later on. Forensic police departments, for example, have come a long way. In the 1970s, forensic departments were unsure about the value of preserving biological samples found at crime scenes. At the time, technology only allowed them to determine blood type. It still was not advanced enough to identify a suspect.

Years later, once DNA technology advanced, forensic departments around the world that decided to invest in preserving samples could identify suspects with 99.9% certainty. In many cases, this technology helped to vindicate people that were wrongly convicted. Justice was served only because certain groups had the foresight to invest in something they knew had value and could make a difference in the future.

There is one simple lesson we can learn from instances like this. It is to prepare ourselves for the next wave of advances in science and medicine that is surely coming. While there is no guarantee that you will ever need to use your home or auto insurance —we certainly hope not— we are sure you would agree that having those resources at your disposal brings peace of mind. Imagine how much more meaningful it would be to know you have secured access for yourself, or your loved ones, to potentially life-saving therapies that will become available in the future.

To take advantage of cell banking, head to Acorn’s lab headquarters in the MaRS Centre in Downtown Toronto. You can also sign up to order the world’s first affordable, accessible, live-cell home collection kit.