A few weeks ago, I came across an interesting story about a stem cell company with a peculiar patenting strategy. As I looked into it further, I realized I’d stumbled into a complicated corporate plot that became more incredible with every turn.
Endonovo Therapeutics is pursuing patents around molecules produced from adult stem cells which, in and of itself, isn’t remarkable, but the method being used to create a cell response is. The company manufactures the “Cytotronics” platform that claims to stimulate cells using simulated microgravity and Time-Varying Electromagnetic Fields (TVEMF), which is simply a way to describe electromagnetic forces that fluctuate over time.
To me, this sounded slightly too good to be true and warranted a closer examination. The company is publicly traded, and though this isn’t evidence of the science actually working, it does mean that information about it is easier to find. I thought I’d give the company the benefit of the doubt and investigate further.
I was surprised to find that there actually is a very small body of research concerning EMF effects on cellular growth.
As it turns out, there are plenty of independent groups reporting similar effects of electromagnetic fields on many different kinds of cells, including bone marrow stem cells. There is also a Canadian group that found that EMF fields inhibit cancer cell line growth. (This group used a “Thomas-EMF” pattern, which can apparently affect membrane activity associated with epileptic seizures and is presumably different than the TVEMF fields in Endonovo’s technology.)
Endonovo has another technology interest – microgravity – and another group of researchers studies its effect on cells. Simulated microgravity, or clinorotation, has been shown to alter cardiomyogenesis and reprogram bone stem cells to become more osteogenic, but to my knowledge there is no practical application for this yet.
In the end, finding credible research to support the biological effects of EMF was actually fairly difficult. After wading through a dozen or more papers on the subject, the best claim that I could find was that electromagnetic pulses either create free radicals or perforate membranes, similar to the familiar lab technique of electroporation. Either of these create a cell ‘response,’ but whether that response is actually useful for something remains to be seen.
Despite the skepticism I had for the technology at this point, I pressed on as I wanted to understand how Endonovo came to embrace these technologies.
Which led me to Dr. Donnie Rudd. That’s where the story gets more interesting.
As of late 2015, Dr. Rudd was hailed by the company as one of the principal drivers behind Endonovo’s intellectual property (IP), starting his career in the regenerative medicine field in the early 2000s. He holds extensive patents related to the effects of electromagnetic fields on cells and by this measure seemed like a world expert. In this video interview, Rudd speaks about NASA’s stem cell program and how the characteristics of fluctuating EM waves encourage cells to grow.
The odd thing about Rudd’s scientific career is that it has been remarkably short, and prior to all this work with EMF he was an attorney in Chicago. Endonovo describes him as one of America’s Top 5 attorneys, but Rudd’s website states he was voted 1989 Attorney of the Year by the “Condominium Attorneys Bar Association.”
At this point a gigantic red flag went up.
In a final bizarre twist, Rudd is currently in jail (cached article) for the alleged murder of his first wife in 1973. Whether he’s guilty is still to be determined, but despite being listed as Endonovo’s Chief Scientist and Director of IP as recently as last September, he’s not mentioned on their site anymore.
What does this all mean for Endonovo’s position in the regenerative medicine space? The penny stock has quintupled in the last six months, but the sheer volume of Rudd’s patents around Endonovo’s TVEMF technology makes evaluating the technology it actually stands on incredibly difficult.
Fortunately for Endonovo, the company purchased Rudd’s holding company containing all the TVEMF IP in late 2013 and paid for it in full by December 2015. I’m willing to bet that Endonovo will continue to go its own way from here on forward.
From a scientific perspective, TVEMF and microgravity do not seem completely without any basis. Concerning the latter, a solid body of knowledge has emerged from the biotech lab on the International Space Station, specifically on the effects of microgravity on cells. While microgravity biology may not be Endonovo’s main area of business right now, developing technology in this space does appear to be a viable Plan B for the company if its post-Rudd bioelectronic ambitions don’t pan out.
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