MENLO PARK, Calif.—CohBar Inc., a biotechnology company focused on developing mitochondria-based therapeutics (MBTs) to treat diseases associated with aging, announced in mid-April that researchers at the University of Southern California (USC), in collaboration with investigators at the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University (Einstein), have demonstrated the ability of small humanin-like peptides (SHLPs), a novel family of six peptide hormones discovered by the group, to regulate metabolism and cell viability in preclinical studies.
The research, “Naturally Occurring Mitochondrial-derived Peptides are Age-dependent Regulators of Apoptosis, Insulin Sensitivity, and Inflammatory Markers,” appeared online and in the April 2016 issue of Aging. CohBar has the exclusive license for the development of SHLPs into therapeutics.
SHLPs are encoded in the mitochondria, which are small components of the cell responsible for converting food into energy. In the newly published study, the SHLP hormones demonstrated unique activities, suggesting therapeutic potential for a number of diseases associated with aging. Specifically, SHLP2, which declines with age, has shown characteristics that could be beneficial in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease as well as diabetes, both subjects of ongoing studies by teams at Einstein and USC. SHLP6 has shown activity in the promotion of cancer cell apoptosis, a mechanism that could be useful in the treatment of malignancies.
“Together with the previously described mitochondrial-derived peptides humanin and MOTS-c, the SHLP family expands our understanding of the role that these peptides play in intracellular signaling throughout the body to regulate both metabolism and cell survival,” said Dr. Pinchas Cohen, dean of the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, founder and director of CohBar and the senior author on the study. “These findings further illustrate the enormous potential that mitochondria-based therapeutics could have on treating age-associated diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer.”
“The preclinical evidence continues to confirm that these peptides represent a new class of naturally occurring metabolic regulators,” said CohBar CEO Simon Allen. “They form the foundation of our pipeline of first-in-class treatments for age-related diseases, and we are committed to rapidly advancing them though preclinical and clinical activities as we move forward.”
Until recently, according to CohBar, the mitochondrial genome was believed to contain only 37 genes and remained relatively unexplored as a focus of drug discovery efforts. Research by CohBar founders and their academic collaborators has revealed that the mitochondrial genome has dozens of potential new genes that may encode peptides capable of influencing cellular activities by acting as messengers between cells, the company adds. In models of diseases associated with aging, these peptides have shown disease-modifying metabolic, neuroprotective, cytoprotective and anti-inflammatory effects. CohBar’s efforts are focused on optimizing mitochondrial-derived peptides into MBT drug candidates. MBTs are being developed for the treatment of diseases associated with aging, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, atherosclerosis and neurodegenerative disorders.