CLEVELAND, April 10, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Athersys, Inc. (Nasdaq:ATHX) announced today the recent publication of articles in two peer-reviewed scientific journals, Journal of Immunology and Circulation, that describe the potential for multipotent adult progenitor cells (MAPC ®s), or MultiStem ® cells, to provide benefit in autoimmune disease and in peripheral vascular disease (PVD), respectively. The articles also describe specific biological mechanisms by which this cell therapy delivers benefit in these areas and illustrate the strong scientific foundation supporting MultiStem cell therapy. These findings may support clinical investigation in these areas and represent important, additional commercial opportunities for the company's MultiStem franchise. The Journal of Immunology article (April 1, 2013, epub ahead of print), authored by scientists at King's College, London, Pfizer Inc. and Athersys, describes the results of a study using allogeneic islet transplantation (an approach for treating Type 1 diabetes) as a model to assess the ability of MultiStem cells to control the T cell responses that play an important role in autoimmune disease and allograft rejection. The MultiStem cells suppressed T cell proliferation and Th1 and Th17 cytokine production, increased anti-inflammatory IL-10 production, suppressed autoreactive T cell activity, and supported the proliferation of regulatory T cells, which resulted in durable control of potentially damaging inflammatory T cells. Aberrant T cell activity contributes significantly to a number of inflammatory and immune-mediated conditions, including Type 1 diabetes, graft-versus-host disease, solid organ transplantation, inflammatory bowel disease, and other autoimmune diseases, such as scleroderma, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. The Circulation article (2013; 127:710-719), authored by investigators at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) together with scientists from Athersys, describes the results of a study using advanced imaging technologies to evaluate the administration of MultiStem cell therapy in a rodent hind-limb ischemia model. Ultrasound imaging of the ischemic limb following MAPC treatment showed more complete recovery of blood flow and greater expansion of microvascular blood volume in MAPC-treated animals. In addition, the study confirmed that this effect was in part related to endothelial activation and enhanced recruitment of endogenous proangiogenic cells resulting from the MAPC treatment. Critical limb ischemia (CLI), an advanced from of PVD, is characterized by severe decline of blood flow causing persistent and severe pain in the lower extremities and eventually leads to ulcerations and gangrene resulting in amputations and a significant death rate. CLI may affect more than five million people in the U.S., Europe and Japan, and this is expected to increase with an aging population and the growing prevalence of diabetes. "These publications further illustrate the mechanisms through which MultiStem therapy may provide benefit to patients," said Dr. Robert Deans, Executive Vice President of Regenerative Medicine at Athersys. "These latest results further confirm that MultiStem cells are not one dimensional – they have the capacity to act in a dynamic manner and convey therapeutic effects through multiple modes of action depending on the disease or condition. This is a central paradigm that distinguishes cell therapy from single modality drugs and biologics, and represents an important potential advancement in the treatment of disease."