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Improving Health Span with Dr. Drew Taylor

George Grombacher September 8, 2022

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Improving Health Span with Dr. Drew Taylor

LifeBlood: We talked about improving health span, using your own cells to regenerate what your body needs, how it works, and how to get started, with Dr. Drew Taylor, CEO of Acorn Biolabs. 

Listen to learn about how you can improve your overall quality of life as you age!

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

During the baseball off-season, Drew Taylor pursued his PhD in biomedical engineering.

Dr. Drew Taylor

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:00
Come on let’s go. This is George G. And the time is right welcome today’s guest strong and powerful. Drew Taylor Drew, are you ready to do this?

Unknown Speaker 0:17
I’m ready. Let’s do it.

george grombacher 0:19
Let’s go through is the CEO of acorn Bio Labs, having simultaneously earned a PhD in Biomedical Engineering while playing professional baseball, he went on to found acorn which helps people access the future of regenerative, regenerative medicine. excited to have you on Drew, tell us a little about your personal lives more about your work and why you do what you do.

Unknown Speaker 0:40
Absolutely. Personal life. It’s mostly work right now is personal life is my wife can attest. But it’s been a busy run for us. But we’re pretty excited. Acorn was was really founded out of three scientists really having very experienced have similar experiences in some of the problems that they were seeing, that would be faced in regenitive. Medicine and actually the ability to deliver these new therapies to patients. I personally was at Mount Sinai Hospital here in Toronto, doing a PhD, and then stayed on in the Division of orthopedics. Afterwards, where my role going into that group was actually taking some really successful animal studies and translating those into human models. So, you know, had some awesome success now growing cartilage tissue for animals. And now, I was tasked with this make that work for humans. So I was going into the, or grabbing biopsies of patient cells and bringing it back to the lab where we would, in practice, see if we could culture out those cells to one day. Use them in Arthur plastic surgery or other types of cartilage tissue repair. So that’s fake news, fake hips. And so you know, it was it was a very ambitious project. And unfortunately, the results in the human models were not replicating the animal ones. And so we dug into every reason why possibly, but our first assumption turned out to be true. It was H, all the animal studies were done in young animals, basically teenagers. And now I’m going in at the time of need for patients when they’re coming in for Arthur plastic surgery. So getting a fake knee or fake hip, and their cells are at their absolute worst. And we’re taking those back to the lab and seeing if they can, or asking them rather to perform at their best, which they were unable to do. When we did have access to younger human samples that worked well and older animals, it did not. So it was really this kind of Stark looming cloud over the world of regenerative medicine. And it was a bit of a sad moment in my career, because ultimately, when are we going to see patients in their time of need, they’re going to come into us with a problem. And we’re going to look to some of these these leaps forward in medicine, leveraging our own cells to deliver value to them and benefit to them. And precisely at that moment, we’re going to be unable to do so because their cells are going to have degraded to a point where they’re not an appropriate resource for this.

george grombacher 3:06
That is a that is a cold water to the face, right there.

Unknown Speaker 3:10
Yeah. No, it was definitely a sad moment. So look, I mean, the the obvious answer would be how do we intercept the aging process? Can we take some cells from a patient and tuck them away? Right cryogenically freeze them so that they could pull from a younger source of their own cells in the future? Because ultimately, all you know, the world of regenitive medicine is, is it’s not like, you know, pharmaceuticals where we’re looking at a compound or chemical and its purity. And we’re manufacturing that the starting material to create these therapies is a patient’s own cells. And so they’re only going to be as powerful as the cells that we have access to. So it’s ensure that patients have their best available to them at all times.

george grombacher 3:54
Does it have to be mine?

Unknown Speaker 3:56
That’s a really good question. Short answer is yes. I mean, obviously, everybody’s heard about organ donations and transplants and things. There are complications that come with accepting someone else’s cellular material or organs into your body. And ultimately, the biggest risk is that you reject those cells. And so essentially, your immune system fights those cells and gets rid of them because they identify them as not yours. And so what we do in all cases, where donor cells are administered large and small, is we use immunosuppressants to lower the immune system of the recipient. And that way, they don’t fight off that donor material. It’s only really done where we put people on immunosuppressants when it is a massive quality of life shift or life saving. And ultimately, it doesn’t introduce risks, right? You don’t have an immune system that is active like it was before and it leaves you susceptible to unfortunately, getting the common cold which then you know, you’re unable to fight off develops into pneumonia and in the course of my career, if I have definitely seen patients that unfortunately succumbed to immunosuppressants and leaving them more susceptible.

george grombacher 5:07
Yeah, that seems like a it seems like a hard trade off hard decision to make.

Unknown Speaker 5:14
Yeah. So it’s a hard trip. And I mean, it’s, it’s a easy decision to make when without that Oregon, you know, you don’t have any other options. It’s a decision we would never make in instances where we’re treating something that isn’t life saving, right. And regenerative medicine has applications all the way through Friday, and some of the world’s worst diseases, to rejuvenate in our skin regrowing hair, you know, rejuvenation of our joints, right repair of cartilage and things that are more, you know, orthopedic, right, musculoskeletal system. So the question is, where’s that line in the sand on when we’re going to be acceptable, those risks are going to be acceptable? And so you know, the short answer is, it is always best to have your own cells. In some cases, it’s the only option.

george grombacher 5:58
Fascinating. So, back to the cartilage example. I’ve got, I’ve got, I’ve got two kids, five and two, if we were to extract some of their cells today it from from the two year old. And number one, how would we store them? How does that process work? And then we just freeze them. And when my kids 50 years old, and he needs to improve his knees, we can go grab those, and it’s going to work? Theoretically.

Unknown Speaker 6:26
Yeah, I mean, when we’re thinking about, like, 4550 years from now, right? The possibilities are pretty incredible, right? I mean, there’s groups all around the world working on regenerating and recreating entire organ systems in the lab. Right. So the idea of 3d printing human organs on demand, I think, will be available by then no question. So the possibilities are, are quite amazing. Like, we’ve got groups in Tel Aviv that are 3d printing miniature human hearts right now. But the size of a rabbit is hard. But you know, they can pump blood and they’ve got vascularization. And you know, upscaling that to a model where it’s a full human heart is I think, absolutely in our lifetimes, let alone our children’s lifetimes. So it is, it is a lifelong resource that can be available to you, the way that we approach things is a little bit differently, because we want to make sure this is accessible to patients and that people are making the decision to do it. Options historically, to bank yourself have not been great. They come with some high stakes, or morbidities, they’re left drilling anteriorly at crest, and harvesting bone marrow is a highly invasive, highly painful procedure, and very expensive. And so it’s not going to be something that a lot of people are going to do prospectively. I’ve absolutely heard about, you know, athletes, high end athletes and celebrities making those decisions. To do that, and having no problem, you know, spending a lot of money to do it. But that’s not really accessible to everybody. And so we really set as a group to try to create options for people to bank their cells that are financially accessible. And non invasive, we were big challenges. And, and we spent a lot of time in the lab, making sure that we were able to access a source of cells, that has unbelievably high potential, does not leave any morbidities with the patient. And ultimately, you know, is something that a patient would walk in and do easily. And it’s pretty incredible. But it it really is like the hair follicle was designed for this. And so we’ve all plucked an eyebrow or two I certainly have otherwise I’d look more like Eugene Levy. And ultimately, it is not painful, very easy to do extremely accessible, non evasive. And, and that bold, the tip of our follicle is this plethora of resources for us is multiple germ layers of cells, one of the highest concentrations of adult stem cells in the human body. And we’ve done amazing things which I’m sure will we’ll get into in our lab using the cells. But it’s a very simple thing that people can access and do relatively inexpensively and in create a biologic health insurance policy for themselves.

george grombacher 9:10
Fascinating. Doesn’t surprise me true that me as a 43 year old man, by hair follicles in different places in my body seem to be growing really, really, really well. Whereas other parts aren’t. So totally makes sense. So I’m

Unknown Speaker 9:25
there when I’m when I’m there with you.

george grombacher 9:28
These are just these are just the realities, Drew. So all right, so let’s let’s just jump right into that. Like what similar liabilities are,

Unknown Speaker 9:37
yeah, what’s the possibility? So um, I mean, I think that the best way to describe the possibilities are near term, like so the short term possibilities of what we’re going to see just in the in the next like, year or so. The possibilities that are in the midterm, so will take years to create and then the long term like what we’ll see in our lifetimes, but it’s a little bit more difficult. Well to predict on when it’s going to be here and now the long term is kind of what we talked about of like recreating Oregon’s right, so we’re able to take a human hair follicle and to a process that’s essentially reprograms it to behave like an embryonic stem cell. And so it takes it from like that N cell type, you know, a skin cell, and draws it all the way back to behaving like that magic moment when when sperm meets egg, and it can become any cell in the body. And this was first done in Japan by Nobel Prize winning group in 2012. And since it has really been an example of one of the things along with CRISPR, that is going to lead regenerative medicine in the future, we’ve been able to take human hair follicle and turn it into these IPSC induced pluripotent stem cells, and then differentiate those cells or push those cells down pathways of cell types that we may need in our bodies. A good example of one that we were doing recently is turning a hair follicle into these IPs C’s and then pushing them down to the pancreas, progenitor cells. And so in that case, you can then continue to push those cells down lineages like islet beta cells, and tackle some some of the, you know, tough diseases like diabetes, right. So very exciting possibilities. In the medium term, we think about using the mesenchymal stem cells that reside in our hair follicles naturally, and leveraging the cell types that exist there, we can expand those in culture, we can create the volumes that you need. And you can think about reintroducing as you age your younger cells back into your population, to impart all kinds of benefits. And one of the big things that that we uncovered back in my days working specifically in cartilage, I work more in skin now, but different connective tissues, but tons of similarities was that when we put younger cells adjacent to older cells, the older cells start to perform better, they almost remember how to produce things like collagen, and hyaluronic acid and a bunch of those things that we need for, for skin health and things. And so the idea of kickstarting, you know, our production by the younger cells themselves, and then those younger cells also influencing our older cells to perform better is a pretty exciting proposition in the midterm. In the short term, these cells can that you’ve banked connect, essentially like a factory for you. And so a lot of people in sports medicine and aesthetic medicine right now will probably have heard about PRP, platelet rich plasma, this is the idea of taking our blood drive or blood, spinning it in a centrifuge that separates the red blood cells from the plasma, the red blood cells are thrown away. And now you’ve got this concentrated plasma that is rich and growth factors and platelets. And we deliver that to the site of injury where we want to see benefit and hair regrowth or skin rejuvenation. And oftentimes, you know, it’s variable results, because it’s so dependent on the patient’s inherent health at that moment. But people have received massive benefits from this. And so it is a very exciting and it’s pervasive in both of those spaces today. But what we’re doing is actually taking your bank cells and so you know, over time, these will become a greater difference to your current age, right, they’re gonna stay the same age as their bank, and, and use those cells to create those things on demand. And so at ACORN, we’re able to create volumes of growth factors and matrix molecules that are between two and 34 times higher what we find in PRP alone. And so really developing the next evolution of a product like PRP that can be used in aesthetic medicine, and sports medicine. But is less variable, higher concentrations of the things that we want. And you can essentially, lock in a time point for yourself so that you’ve got an enhanced product as you continue to age and unfortunately, your product as you age would become worse and worse. And this is really, you know, exciting because it is near term. There are no live cells that are left in that end product. It’s all the byproducts of those cells that we need. And so from like, you know, the idea of regulatory pathways and getting this into patients from a safety perspective, it really checks both of those boxes extremely well. So these are the things that we are already in, in, in, in planning for, for trials in patients. And that could be happening as soon as as soon as early next year.

george grombacher 14:30
Fascinating. Super cool. Thank God, there’s smart people like you out there drew working.

Unknown Speaker 14:36
I’ve got an amazing team behind me. I just talked about it.

george grombacher 14:40
So you touched on on regulation. And I guess my question is, are there any ethical concerns that I don’t see any that that you’re running up against?

Unknown Speaker 14:53
I think the ethical concerns that have come up with with stem cells previously had been mostly or Round the fact that the stem cells had to be harvested from a developing, you know, like fetus basically. Right? So you’ve got, you know, sperm meets egg, you’ve got this embryo that starts to develop, I shouldn’t call it fetus, it is an embryo at that stage. And that’s some of those complications in the 90s, when, when a lot of those studies were shut down by some some laws that were enacted by, by Bush, but it is, this is completely different, right. And that’s, I think what inducing pluripotency is really delivered is the ability to actually reprogram our own cells to behave in that way, with no cost right, to to any kind of, you know, embryo or harvesting, or any donor because they are your own cells. So I mean, huge opportunities there. But in the short term, absolutely no complications, we do PRP, routinely, we leverage our own cells, and fat grafting, and aesthetics, and all of these different things all the time. And this is no different than just making sure that we’ve got elements in one part of our body that are beneficial, and they’re not getting to the site where we need them in high enough concentrations. And we’re facilitating that to happen.

george grombacher 16:08
Nice. So how does it work? Go on the website, you send me a vial or something, and I put my hair in there, I send it back.

Unknown Speaker 16:15
Yeah. So right now, for the Canadian listeners, it’s available today, you can go onto our website, and you can actually see the locations across Canada that this is available, you can schedule an appointment with those physicians to go in and have your cells collected. So it is it’s with, you know, we launched earlier this year in the Canadian market. And the response has been pretty incredible and exciting. We’ve got we’re working with some of the top plastic surgeons, dermatologists, sports medicine practitioners across the country. We are entering the US later this year. So we have for us friends a request access button on the website, and you can essentially get in line so that you will have first access when this goes live in the US. And we already have a number of really some of the top doctors in the US on board that are going to be having it available in their clinics day one. And so you’ll be notified right away, depending on what region you live in, on availability in your area. So it’s it’s coming pretty quick. And and the thing I can say is jump on throw your name on there so that you get yourself in line.

george grombacher 17:22
Exciting. Yeah. Yeah. When when you think about the growth that this potentially can have, is it freak you out at all? DREW

Unknown Speaker 17:34
I think it excites me more than freaks me out. I mean, the idea of, of a future where we are able to recreate, you know, body parts, organs, cells that we’re lacking on demand for ourselves is very exciting. I think that, you know, there’s there’s so many different areas of science right now that are pushing the boundaries of what we previously really thought around longevity. And I, I love the word longevity. But I have an interesting relationship with it, because I much prefer like healthspan, right, because ultimately, all of these, these diseases that we see that are so closely linked with age, you know, is what we need to be targeting and making sure that we’re mitigating right. And that is going to inherently increase our lifespan, when we’ve seen that throughout history, even just the development of sewer systems, increase the lifespan of the human race, right, because we’re, you know, creating these other things that are protecting ourselves from some of the things that are risks to our mortality. So it is it is an exciting future, I definitely think that we have an opportunity to spend more time on this earth, with technologies like ours and others. And, and I definitely welcome that because our mission is essentially to give you more time to do the things that you love doing with the people that you love doing them with. And so if we can do that and keep you healthy and active. That’s a very exciting future.

george grombacher 19:00
No doubt about it. I love it. healthspan that makes a ton of sense. And there’s opportunities to, to live longer. mazing but if there’s opportunities to live better and longer, that’s that’s, that’s why why wouldn’t anybody want to explore that opportunity? So,

Unknown Speaker 19:20
yeah, love it. Yeah, absolutely. We want to make sure that that the, the end of our lives, whenever that does come, that it comes quickly, right? And that, you know, we’re not in bed for 10 years before that happens, right? That we’re able to stay active and vibrant and with, you know, mental acuity and all of those different things that that really make the time that we have valuable. So it’s, you know, it’s a it’s a big mission. But, you know, I think that what we’re gonna see is a very exciting future ahead. And and it’s evident in all of the work that’s going on, you know, the 1000s of projects across the world in leveraging sells to create, you know, essentially replacements or replacement parts that we unfortunately lose as we age.

george grombacher 20:09
So we’re gonna see Tom Brady playing professional football till 65, not just 45

Unknown Speaker 20:14
it’s a possibility. Okay, he looks good. He looks better than when he graduated Michigan. Absolutely, I went to University of Michigan. So I’m a Tom Brady fan. And I mean, he is one of the definitions of many people out there that that are the definition of Aging Gracefully.

george grombacher 20:35
No doubt. I love it. Well, Drew, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? And how can they for folks in Canada, you can get started for folks in the United States. Give us the way to to get on that list.

Unknown Speaker 20:49
Yeah, so just jump on to ACORN dot M E. And on our website, you’ll find all of the options available to you depending on where you are in the world. And then you can also follow us we love to share some of the updates from the lab and what’s going on in advancements around the world. So you can follow us at ACORN Bio Labs on Instagram or Twitter or any of the platforms. And then me personally, I’m new to Instagram but you can find me at Dr. Drew Taylor. And we’ve got some some cool stuff that we’ll be sharing from the lab as we go forward. And then also on Twitter at Drew W Taylor.

george grombacher 21:31
Excellent. If you enjoyed as much as I did show drew your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas, go to ACORN dot M E, and find out what the next steps are depending on where it is that you are living, find acorn Bio Labs on social media and to Dr. Drew Taylor on social media as well. I will link all of those in the notes of the show. Thanks again, Drew. Thank you so much. And until next time, keep fighting the good fight. We’re all in this together.

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