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First-in-Human Mitochondrial Augmentation of Hematopoietic Stem Cells in Pearson Syndrome

Minovia conducted a compassionate use program at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Aviv, Israel, through which three children with Pearson syndrome and one patient with Kearns-Sayre syndrome were treated. Results were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) in San Diego, December 2018. This report was named a “Best of ASH” presentation.


Pearson Syndrome (PS) is an ultra-rare disease caused by de-novo mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) deletions. Patients present at infancy with sideroblastic anemia and later develop a multisystem metabolic disorder, leading to death in early or late childhood. No disease-modifying treatments are available for PS. Ex-vivo enrichment of functional mitochondria into various cells has been previously demonstrated, as has inter-cellular mitochondrial transfer. In preclinical models of mitochondrial and lysosomal disorders, hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) have been shown capable of carrying and transferring normal organelles into diseased tissues, thereby altering disease phenotype. Here, we show enrichment of PS-derived HSPCs with wild-type mitochondria, a process termed mitochondrial augmentation. We further report on three patients with PS treated with autologous HSPCs following ex-vivo mitochondrial augmentation.


Diagnosis of PS was confirmed by MLPA and deletion-specific dPCR. Colony formation assays were performed on PS patient-derived HSPCs, prior to and after mitochondrial augmentation. HSPC mobilization was performed with GCSF alone (n=1) or with plerixafor (n=2) prior to leukapheresis. Autologous CD34+ cells were positively-selected on a CliniMACS system, followed by ex-vivo mitochondrial augmentation of the cells with maternal cryopreserved mitochondria carrying normal mtDNA as confirmed by MLPA. Enriched cells were intravenously infused without conditioning. Level of heteroplasmy (relative normal to deleted mtDNA) was determined by deletion-specific dPCR of DNA from peripheral blood. Patients were followed for a period of up to 1 year including clinical and metabolic evaluations. Adverse events were reported as per CTCAE v4.03. Cellular mitochondrial function was studied on peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) by ATP content, O2 consumption and flow cytometry for TMRE (Tetramethylrhodamine ethyl ester) and MTG (mitotracker green).


Three patients were treated with production and safety data available, and in two patients efficacy data is available. PS-patient derived HSPCs have a diminished capacity to form colonies in vitro (median, 360 colonies per 104 cells vs. 1090 in healthy donors). HSPC colony forming capacity increased by an average of 30% after mitochondrial augmentation. Target cell dose (4×106 CD34+ cells per kg) was not reached despite two leukapheresis procedures in patients 1 and 2, who received 1.1 and 1.8 million CD34+ cells per kg recipient, respectively. Patient 3 received 2.8 million cells per kg following a single apheresis. Mitochondrial enrichment in the products was 156%, 162% and 114% for patients 1, 2 and 3. To date, the only treatment-related adverse events noted were leukapheresis related, including anemia, hypocalcemia and alkalosis.

In two patients with more than 3 months follow-up, we observed in vivo mitochondrial enrichment starting 3-4 months after cellular therapy, and throughout the follow-up period (Figure). Metabolic function of PBMCs showed improvement at 5 months post-treatment in lymphocyte ATP content, O2 consumption and TMRE:MTG ratio, indicating improved mitochondrial respiratory capacity. Improvement in mitochondrial heteroplasmy and function was in line with clinical findings: following cell therapy, no events of metabolic crisis occurred, along with normalization of a pre-treatment negative base excess in patient 1 and ongoing improvement in baseline lactate levels in patient 2. Aerobic ability and fine motor functions were superior compared to baseline in both patients. Importantly, quality of life, as measured by the International Pediatric Mitochondrial Disease Score (IPMDS), was greatly improved after treatment.


We report a first in human study with a novel form of cellular therapy, mitochondrial augmentation, in which we enrich HSPCs with organelles encoding non-mutated version of the mtDNA sequence. We show the ability of mitochondrial augmentation to improve in vitro PS-derived HSPC function, and improvement in metabolic determinants, aerobic capacity and quality of life of two patients treated. Together, these preliminary clinical data suggest that mitochondrial augmentation therapy is safe, and may alter the clinical course for patients with mitochondrial deletions/mutations including PS.
Elad Jacoby, MD1,2, Moriya Blumkin, PhD3*, Yair Anikster, MD, PhD1,2*, Nira Varda-Bloom, PhD4*, Julia Pansheen4*, Omer Bar Yoseph, MD, PhD1,2*, Noah Gruber, MD1*, Einat Lahav, MD1*, Michal J Besser, PhD2,5*, Jacob Schachter, MD2,5*, Noa Sher, PhD3*, Natalie Yivgi Ohana, PhD3* and Amos Toren, MD, PhD1,2

1The Edmond and Lily Safra Children’s Hospital, Sheba Medical Center, Ramat Gan, Israel2Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel 3Minovia Therapeutics, Haifa, Israel 4Hematology Laboratory, Sheba Medical Center, Ramat Gan, Israel 5Ella Lemelbaum Institute for Immuno Oncology, Sheba Medical Center, Ramat Gan, Israel

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