Atopy, which is more painful when dry … Active development of ‘stem cell therapy’

Autumn, when the cool breeze blows, is a great season to enjoy outdoor activities, but there are some people who want to avoid it. These are patients with atopic dermatitis.

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease caused by multiple factors such as genetics, the environment, immunological abnormalities, and skin barrier dysfunction. In particular, environmental factors such as temperature and humidity, exposure to irritants, allergens, and stress greatly affect the onset or worsening of atopic dermatitis symptoms.

Atopic dermatitis, mainly reserved for babies and young people, is increasing mainly in adult patients. According to the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service, the number of atopic dermatitis patients in Korea increased from 933,797 in 2017 to 980,750 in 2021, and more than 50,000 in five years, namely 523,840 per year, an increase of about 120,000 in five years.

Unlike pediatric patients, adult patients have symptoms concentrated around the eyes and mouth, throat and ears, causing difficulties in interpersonal relationships and social life. The average duration of the disease in adult patients is as long as 23-28 years, of which 20-46% are said to be in a moderate to severe condition. In particular, when atopic dermatitis becomes severe, a rash appears all over the body, which can be accompanied by symptoms such as swelling or redness of the skin, severe itching, dry skin, cracks, and scabs.

For this reason, various clinical studies of new mechanisms that differ from existing treatments are being conducted. As of September, 11 clinically approved items for the treatment of atopic dermatitis had been registered with the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety in Korea for the past three years. The most notable is the treatment using stem cells. Among them, the fastest is ‘Pure Stem-ADZoo’ by Kang Stem Biotech. Phase 3 clinical trials are underway with allogeneic cord blood-derived mesenchymal stem cells. This drug is a mechanism to restore the homeostasis of an impaired immune system. Unlike conventional therapeutics that suppress immune antibodies, when stem cells are cultured and injected outside the body, they recognize inflammatory cytokines and antigens present in the inflammatory environment and secrete various immune modulators. By this, it improves the symptoms of atopic dermatitis by regulating the activity of different types of immune cells involved in inducing atopic dermatitis.

According to Kangtem Biotech, the interim results of the long-term follow-up study of the first phase 3 clinical trial for atopic dermatitis, which ended in 2019, confirmed safety and efficacy up to 3 years of administration. In addition, no serious adverse events such as death or malignancy were confirmed until 3 years after administration of the test drug. The EASI-50 (50% improvement in Eczema Severity Index) was achieved in 58% (40 out of 69 patients) at 1 year, 66% (34 out of 50) at 2 years, and 75% (out of 52) on 3 years. 39 people).

SCM Life Science and EHL Bio are also developing a treatment for atopic dermatitis using stem cells. SCM Life Sciences is conducting a phase 2 clinical trial by culturing stem cells with its own original technology, while EHL Bio is developing a treatment for intravenous administration using adipose stem cells. As stem cells are cells naturally present in our body, they have the advantage of regenerating damaged organs or tissues and having fewer side effects.

[이상민 매경헬스 기자]
[ⓒ 매일경제 &, 무단전재 및 재배포 금지]

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