Dr. George Muschler is a cell biologist and orthopedic surgeon by trade and an engineer at heart. Not long after coming to Cleveland Clinic 30 years ago, he realized he needed to engineer the solutions to his research problem. The problem? How to regrow bone and cartilage. Over the course of the last 30 years, Dr. Muschler has slowly, but surely, been advancing his technology down the road to
Cell X is a machine comprised of a high powered microscope with a mechanical stage and fluidics management system housed in a sterile, environmentally controlled casing. With this machine, researchers can analyze cell colonies, pick sections based on standardized analysis, and expose them to media. This system has been developed over the course of years by Dr. Muschler and Dr. Kim Powell, who has expertise in image analysis, and it ensures that colonies are counted and analyzed in a standardized fashion that removes the element of human error. The goal is to define what you are looking for, pick the proper selection, show how you did it, and know how to reproduce the results.
To grow new bone, or any other type of tissue, you need to have the right kind of cells Cell X enables you to choose the right cells. “Think of it like a garden,” Dr. Muschler explains. “If you want to grow corn, but only have soybean and nettle seeds, you’ll never get corn.” With Cell X, researchers can analyze a cell colony and make sure they are selecting the right “seeds,” or cells.
Disclosed to Cleveland Clinic Innovations in 2009, Cell X was developed in collaboration with Parker Hannifin. The first sale of the product came in 2016 to the University of Iowa, where retinal cell research is being done for children with mutations of the rhodopsin gene; a light-sensitive receptor protein. In 2018, Cell X was formed as a spinoff company of Cleveland Clinic and saw the sale of another unit to the University of Iowa to further their research. 2018 also saw Dr. Muschler speaking to the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine on the subject of cell formation, as well as a collaboration with the FDA to study the effects of immune modulation.
“We put the tools in the hands of people that can use it,” said Dr. Muschler. He went
on to explain the myriad of uses for Cell X beyond what his own lab is doing to regrow
bone and cartilage.
The road to commercial success can be a long one – the first patents related to this
device date back to 1995. It is also a road that sometimes demands you to wait while
other technologies catch up to your needs. Imaging resolution and analysis had to
grow up to meet the original ideas of Drs. Muschler & Powell. However, when the right partners come along, it can allow for the road to open up and for a product to finally get in the fast lane.