VICTORIA, British Columbia — StressGen Biotechnologies Corp. has strengthened its technology platform in the area of stress proteins following the licensing of a family of international patent applications broadly covering molecules, known as heat shock transcription factors (HSF), from the University of Miami.

Richard Glickman, StressGen's president and CEO, said the University of Miami patent applications cover mutated forms of HSF's which regulate the expression of genes that encode stress proteins.

Mutated HSF's can be utilized to either up-regulate or down-regulate the production of endogenous stress proteins to alter a cell's sensitivity to stress.

Access to the University of Miami's technology will allow the company to develop assays to screen for small molecule therapeutics which have the ability to either up-regulate or down-regulate the production of stress proteins.

The protective effects of stress proteins have been observed in neural cells and organs, such as the heart, liver and skin. As a result, researchers and physicians believe HSF therapy may be useful in conditions such as stroke, where it is estimated that ischemic damage to the brain develops relatively slowly, and that cytoprotective intervention at the time stroke symptoms are first detected may provide some benefit, Glickman said.

HSF therapy also may be effective in those types of surgery, such as aortic surgery, where there is the risk of ischemic damage.

StressGen already has shown that stress proteins protect cells from damage caused by ischemia, reperfusion and inflammatory reactions, such as potential complications of certain types of surgery which in extreme situations can cause permanent disablement or death.

Richard Voellmy, of the University of Miami, and a member of StressGen's scientific advisory board, discovered that with the use of mutated heat shock transcription factors it is possible to down-regulate or reduce the production of stress proteins to partially or fully inhibit the protective function of cells, thereby making it easier to kill unwanted cells, such as tumor cells.

The cytoprotection of tissue and organs from noxious physical or chemical conditions is a growing area of scientific and medical study.

The cellular stress response is characterized by the accumulation of stress proteins which have been shown to effectively protect cells from damage.

For example, when cells, tissues or organs are exposed to stressful conditions such as ischemia and reperfusion, they express stress proteins at increased levels.

Research carried out by many different groups of investigators has provided credible evidence that increased expression of individual stress proteins is cytoprotective. Recent studies further show that the interruption of this stress response results in greater than normal damage.