The US Department of Defense (DoD) is set to study the PLX-R18 cell therapy product as a treatment for long-term lung injuries caused by mustard gas exposure.

To this end, the DoD and the US Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense (USAMRICD) have entered an additional collaboration agreement with placenta-based cell therapy products developer Pluristem Therapeutics for its PLX-R18 product.

Known as mustard gas, sulphur mustard is a chemical warfare agent that causes severe chemical burns in multiple organs and can lead to long-term lung damage.

PLX-R18 has so far been effective in recovering the bone marrow, leading to regeneration of progenitor cells and the three blood lineages, namely blood cells, red blood cells and platelets.

“Following the positive results with PLX-R18 in ARS, we believe that the cells have the potential to mitigate the deleterious effects of mustard gas.”

Pluristem Therapeutics co-CEO and president Yaky Yanay said: “Mustard gas injuries have both acute and long-term consequences.

“We believe that PLX-R18 has the potential to alleviate or prevent the devastating effects of both the acute and chronic injuries following mustard gas exposure.”

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Funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the new agreement is the second project selected by the defence department for Pluristem’s PLX-R18.

The DoD is also currently studying the effectiveness of PLX-R18 as a new medical countermeasure for Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS) prior to exposure to high levels of radiation.

The study has been specifically designed to support the needs of the US Armed Forces.

Yanay added: “Following the positive results with PLX-R18 in ARS, we believe that the cells have the potential to mitigate the deleterious effects of mustard gas.

“Positive results from these studies may establish PLX-R18 as a medical countermeasure against a wide range of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threat agents.”

The two projects are part of the NIH-funded late-stage development of PLX-R18 to treat injuries that result from acute exposure to high levels of radiation.