Exclusive: “Mitlets” hold potential for mitochondria transfusion

Mitrix Bio believes recently discovered blood components may support transfusion of large quantities of healthy mitochondria from donor to patient.

Earlier this year, we brought you the story of Mitrix Bio and its mission to grow mitochondria in external bioreactors for transfusion in later life, with the goal of regenerating cells to a more youthful state. Next week, the company is set to announce that it is working in a new area – exploring the potential of blood components it calls “mitlets” to allow the transfusion of mitochondria from multiple donors into a single recipient.

Longevity.Technology: Mitochondria, the power generators within our cells, are heavily implicated in the aging process, and their dysfunction is linked to a wide range of diseases, from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s to heart attacks and strokes. Could mitlets present a viable source of mitochondria for therapeutic transfusion purposes? Only time will tell, but we spoke exclusively with Mitrix founder and CEO Tom Benson to find out more about this exciting new development.

The average person has hundreds of billions of small cells in their blood, called platelets, which are used to stop bleeding and heal damage. When these platelets are activated by damage or reach the end of their 10-day lifespan, they eject their contents, including mitochondria, encased in tiny capsules called mitlets. In recent research, these mitlets are seen to be absorbed by nearby cells, transferring their mitochondria to help strengthen the immune system and regenerate tissue.

“The body human body has hundreds or even thousands of different types of these vesicles, and there’s a huge field studying them,” says Benson. “But we think mitlets are a special breed because they contain mitochondria, and they can be used to transplant those from one person to another.”

Multiple donors to a single recipient

Originally discovered in 2014 by Mitrix partner researcher Dr Eric Boilard and his team at Université Laval in Quebec, mitlets were originally called mitochondrial platelet extracellular vesicles. Benson says he and Boilard coined the term “mitlets” together.

“If you look at the blood there’s all these really great names – platelets, natural killer cells, T cells, white blood cells, red blood cells – there’s all these different fun names,” says Benson. “So we thought we needed a better name, and we came up with mitlets.”

Benson says Mitrix has now funded research projects at multiple universities, which have shown that mitlets can be extracted safely from the blood and injected in large quantities – with 10 or more donors contributing mitlets to a single recipient – so that the recipient can potentially be given healthier mitochondria.

Donation of mitochondria via mitlets opens up the possibility to treat age-related diseases, and Mitrix believes mitlets may also play a significant role in determining the longevity of humans and other animal species.

“We think of mitlets as a form of concentrated healing power, perhaps a missing link in the picture of how our bodies heal and regenerate,” says Benson. “Platelets have long been known to provide healing factors that encourage cells to regenerate, but cells that are old or damaged might not have enough energy to complete the task. We believe that mitlets supply that missing energy by donating healthy mitochondria – like small power plants – to help ailing cells.

“We believe platelets normally provide both the mitlets and growth factors as a combined therapy to enable healing. Now that we understand that relationship, we might create therapies to artificially boost the number of mitlets in the blood, potentially promoting faster healing in the elderly or the immune-compromised.”

Mitlets being studied for “multiple indications”

Interestingly, Benson points out that platelets are already collected routinely by hospitals and blood banks for emergency use, and if not used, must be discarded after a few days. He raises the possibility that blood banks could extract and store the mitlets before discarding expired platelets.

Tom Benson
Mitrix founder and CEO, Tom Benson

While clearly an exciting development, Mitrix is keen to stress that mitlet therapy is still an experimental concept and is far from being available as an approved treatment in humans. There are no human trials underway at this time, and the area will likely require many years of research and testing before scientists understand it fully.

At this point, there are no publications on Mitrix’s recent research studies on mitlets, but Benson says he wants to start getting the word out as the company has been receiving enquiries about its work from research labs around the world. Next month, the company will host a webinar to provide more information about mitlets to interested parties.

Looking ahead, Benson says that Mitrix has research projects at Stanford, University of Connecticut, University Laval in Quebec, and Nova Southeast University in Florida, studying mitlets for a “variety of indications.” The company is also testing bioreactor technology to grow mitlets in larger quantities for more demanding needs.

Image credit: Memed_Nurrohmad / Pixabay