One liner: Theranautilus are developing dental stem cells with internalised magnetic bioglass nanobots for remote-controlled targeted bone growth, to tackle: bone loss, fracture and root canal failure.
Shepherd: Rhys Anderson
Other squad members: Tovah Wolf
Bone loss and tooth fracture are common in geriatric patients (osteoporosis/osteopenia affect around 18% of the global population), which if untreated can lead to other complications. Theranautilus are a lab spinoff working to commercialize biohybrid stem cells with internalized magnetic nanobots, to allow for remote control of the stem cells inside a living body to direct them to a target location. Coating the nanobots with calcium silicate bioglass induces an osteogenic phenotype in the stem cells, allowing for targeted bone formation.
The final product will be cryopreserved biohybrid stem cells to enable easy shipment and easy storage at the hospital level along with the control device to manoeuver them.
The biohybrid nanobot technology can also be applied to root canal failure, which is extremely common due to bacterial infections being inaccessible to treatment and also traumatic injuries where a fracture or crack occurs during the root canal procedure leading to infection. The nanobots can be remotely guided through dentine tubules to penetrate deep into the dentine to the site of bacterial infection where magnetic fields can be applied to induce hyperthermia death.
Whilst maintaining dental health is important for healthy ageing, the long term plan is that their innovative technology for targeted delivery of stem cells could be used as a regenerative therapy for many age-related conditions, such as skeletal bone regeneration for osteoporosis/osteopenia, hearing loss and neural regeneration in stroke patients etc. However, teeth are ideal for testing this new cell-based therapy for several reasons including the availability/accessibility of stem cells in the dental pulp.
Treatment options for dental bone loss and fracture are inefficient and have high failure rates, excessive treatment times, and excessive schedule delays.
Root canal treatment failure is very common, occuring in around 10% of cases (up to 5 million per year in the US alone). The main cause of endodontic failure is the persistence of microorganisms that cause an intraradicular or extraradicular infection and become resistant to disinfection measures.
The Theranautilus team has been working on nanorobotics for over a decade. Their recent publication using nanorobots to prevent root-canal treatment failure has been very well-received by the dental science community.
Stem cells are already used in many therapeutic applications and hold immense potential in regenerative medicine. The team are building stem cells that can be magnetically manoeuvred to the target site due to the presence of magnetic nanostructures inside the cells. These nanostructures (called CALBOTs) are coated with calcium silicate bioglass to induce an osteogenic phenotype and trigger bone growth.
Theranautilus are seeking funding to translate their proof-of-concept by generating data over a larger sample and undergoing good laboratory practice (GLP) documentation for biohybrid stem cell production.
They have successfully developed the first working prototype: THERADRIVE - which has a miniature coil suitable for use in an adult human jaw. This coil system is a unique medical device that can generate up to 60 Gauss rotating fields in any direction to drive stem cells inside the teeth.
Cell toxicity tests:
The team have cell toxicity data and know the exact concentration to make the dental stem cells bioactive to trigger bone growth whilst simultaneously keeping them viable for over a month. This has been confirmed by the team on mouse preosteoblasts (MC3T3 E1 subclone 4 mouse calvarial pre-osteoblasts (ATCC, USA) ).
Bone growth tests:
After establishing cell cytotoxicity and confirming the magnetic bioglass is not cytotoxic, they established the bone growth potential of their nanomaterials.
Representative images of bone growth localized to the regions where CALBOTS are present
Dental Pulp Stem Cells (DPSCs) will be extracted from wisdom teeth and chilled in HBSS for up to 12 hours. The laboratory will perform quality control on the DPSCs followed by cryopreservation. When required for therapy, the cells will be thawed and expanded, incubated with CALBOTs, before returning to the patient.
N.B for root canal failure, the nanobots alone can be guided down the dentinal tubules, followed by application of rapidly varying magnetic fields to heat the nanobots and cause hyperthermia-induced death in bacteria.
Root canal failure update: the team have further optimised the procedure for root canal in a rat, including miniaturisation of root canal instruments to custom fit the rat’s oral cavity. They have performed successful root canal procedures on the rats and have developed a protocol which will be followed for the upcoming randomised controlled trials in association with a research hospital. *Data requested.
Estimated cost analysis of the treatments developed by Theranautilus for various ailments
|Current Treatment||Problem||Cost of treatment||Theranautilus’ treatment||Solution||Estimated Cost|
|Fracture||Bioactive glass||Slow (Few months)||~27000 USD *||Biohybrid stem cells||Targeted delivery of preconditioned stem cells. This reduces time to heal and overall hospital costs||~18000 USD|
|Bone loss||Ionomer/ Bioactive glass grafts||Inefficient and high rate of failure||~3000 USD **||Biohybrid stem cells with magnetic graft||Targeted osteogenic stem cells with magnetic field to keep them in place||~2500 – 3000 USD|
|Root canal failure||NIL||Traumatic dental injuries where a fracture or crack has occurred during the root canal procedure leading to infection||Failure leads to loss of tooth||Delivery of CALBOTs and Biohybrid stem cells***||Deeper penetration of bioglass loaded CALBOTs and stem cells to the site of fracture to repair and prevent tooth loss||~80 USD added to current root canal cost|
*Geurts J, van Vugt T, Thijssen E, Arts JJ. Cost-Effectiveness Study of One-Stage Treatment of Chronic Osteomyelitis with Bioactive Glass S53P4. Materials (Basel). 2019 Sep 30;12(19):3209. doi: 10.3390/ma12193209. PMID: 31574970; PMCID: PMC6804190.
** Zeitlin BD. Banking on teeth - Stem cells and the dental office. Biomed J. 2020 Apr;43(2):124-133. doi: 10.1016/j.bj.2020.02.003.
*** Mobile nanobots for prevention of root canal treatment failure. Dasgupta D, Peddi S, Saini DK, Ghosh A Advanced Healthcare Materials 2022 Apr 28 https://doi.org/10.1002/adhm.202200232
The above table shows the estimated cost a patient incurs for hospital stay, CT scan/ MRI etc (Figure 5). Theranaultilus’ technology can substantially reduce this by reducing hospital stay/visit by ~40%. Below is the core cost of the technology, focusing on engineering of the stem cells.
Current Cost of stem cell banking:
a) Initial Processing : $500 - $2000 (USD)
b) Annual Maintenance (Recurring): $99 - $264 (USD)
Breakdown of estimated cost for modifying stem cells:
a) Materials cost (consumables – One time cost per patient): $50 - $100 USD
b) Service Charge (Optional; In case Theranautilus provides lab support; cost per patient): $20 USD
Pre-Clinical Studies 1a: Toxicity assays of magnetic bioglass on mesenchymal human stem cells (MSCs).
To perfect the protocol of incubating MSCs with magnetic bioglass and the optimum concentration of magnetic bioglass to be used. Cell viability assays at different day points – days 1, 4, and 7. Similar experimental data has been done on mouse pre-osteoblasts, and the same protocol will be followed with necessary adjustments.
Required Funding: $31,210
Duration: 3 Months
Pre-Clinical Studies 2a: Efficacy of magnetic bioglass in triggering bone growth in mesenchymal human stem cells.
To test if bone growth is happening with spatial control, by demonstrating the magnetic manoeuvrability of stem cells to target bone fracture and the possibility of patterned bone growth.
Required Funding: $71,465
Duration: 6 Months
Pre-Clinical Studies 1b: GLP certification for magnetic bioglass fabrication.
This is the next step before applying for clinical trials. The magnetic bioglass synthesized by Theranautilus’ protocol will undergo GLP certification before human trials, where the team plans to collaborate closely with a GLP certified lab to provide this certification.
Required Funding: $38,150
Duration: 6 Months
Pre-Clinical Studies 2b: Device design to deliver mesenchymal stem cells in the human teeth.
The device is protected by the patent application (US20220226073A1 - Controlling motion of magnetically-driven microscopic particles - Google Patents). The team will look at making minor modifications to their current control algorithm and machine to work with CBCT or x-ray data to drive magnetic maneuverable stem cells to the fracture site. An image processing component may be added to the device to make it more efficient.
Required Funding: $43,000
Duration: 6 Months
Total budget: $183,825
$183,000 (USD) via a Sponsored Development Agreement in exchange for 15.25% of the Net Company Receipts (valued at US $1.2M based on an equity raise), encompassing the following indications for CALBOTs therapies: bone loss, tooth fracture and root canal failure.
Theranautilus owns the IP to manufacture the devices to control their nanostructures in human teeth. They filed the “composition of matter” patent in 2022 and we will go ahead with a PCT to protect it in the US/EU region. The patent protecting the method of creating biohybrid stem cells will be filed once the bone growth data and toxicity experiments are repeated.
Dr. Debayan Dasgupta - Co-founder, Director
Expert in electronics and optical engineering. Built several unique devices to image and control nanorobots in cancer physiology during PhD.
Dr. Shanmukh Srinivas - Co-founder, Director
Endodontic surgeon with extensive clinical experience and medical knowledge.
Prof. Ambarish Ghosh - Co-founder, Director
Built several unique devices to image and control nanorobots in cancer physiology during PhD. Co-inventor of the technique used to fabricate helical nanorobots.
Prof. Navakant Bhat - Cofounder and CEO, Pathsodh
Dr. Bruce Lieberthal, DDS Chief Innovation Officer, Henry Schein
For context, (as of Feb 1st, 2023) VitaDAO funded 15+ projects with $3.5m+, and has ~$4.5m in liquid funds remaining (before further fundraising), which will be used for:
Funding new projects
Operations, including sourcing, incubation, evaluation, & community growth
Follow-on funding, including for projects VitaDAO will spin out
Proof-of-concept publications from the Theranautilus team:
- The Theranautilus team are pioneers in implementing magnetic manoeuvrability of nanostructures in biological systems.
- Current medical procedures cannot reach the required depths to kill bacteria. Proof of concept: they have already demonstrated drug delivery using nanobots in the dentine tissue of human teeth.
- Successfully demonstrated drug delivery inside live Wistar rats using nanorobotics technology.
- Quick route to market.
- Teeth are ideal for testing new cell-based treatments. Dental pulp is one of the few areas where stem cells are still found in human adults. Could provide the proof-of-concept to expand into other regenerative medicine therapies.
- Risk associated with novel technology.
- Nanobots have been shown to be magnetically guided down dentinal tubules, but no evidence for stem cell hybrids being able to so far.
- Adoption of the technology to replace current therapies might prove difficult.
- Revisions Requested (Detail in Comments)