Print 21 comment(s) - last by Qapa.. on May 1 at 10:04 PM

T cells protect our bodies against attackers like bacteria, cancer, and the AIDS virus. Scientists at Stanford have found a way to not only target them to threats more effectively (past work), but to allow them to act independent of other immune cells (new work).  (Source: Laplacian Files)
Why use drugs, when you can improve the body's own designs?

Evolution has bestowed mammals with amazingly complex and robust immune systems capable of fighting off a variety of foreign invaders including fungi, bacteria, and viruses.  The immune system is also capable of detecting cancerous cells -- cells in which mutations have led to uncontrolled growth which threatens to engulf normal healthy tissues.

The problem is that even nature sometimes falls short.  The immune system's T Cells, special cells used to fight extreme abnormalities such as AIDS and cancer (note, a special type of T cell fights HIV-infected T cells in AIDS), often times lack the supporting cells or can't stop the abnormality's growth fast enough.

A solution is adoptive immunotherapy, an approach in which certain T cells are harvested from the body and then cultured and exposed to the abnormality.  Kept in a tightly controlled environment they reprogram to fight the abnormality faster than in the complex human body.  The final step is to insert the cells back into the human body, now ready to fight the threat.

Unfortunately, the lack of supporting cells has hindered the promising approach.  So Stanford University bioengineering researchers developed T cells that produce their own cytokines, the special chemical that the T cells typically obtain from other immune cells.  In essence this transforms immune cells into an "army of one", which can fight the threat even if other immune cells have been killed, compromised, or are otherwise unavailable.

To prevent these cells from growing and proliferating out of control (the whole reason for the cytokine system), the researchers encoded a cellular RNA switch that confers a new sensitivity to a specific drug (different riboswitches were used, including ones sensitive to the drugs tetracycline and theophylline).  The T cells only produce their own cytokines when exposed to this drug.

The super-cells featured 24 percent more live cells, when cultured, than normal T cells.  They also had a 50 percent reduced death rate.

Christina Smolke, PhD, assistant professor of bioengineering proclaims, "This is an integration of a cell-based therapy application with new synthetic biology tools that have come up from foundational research.  The unique aspect is that we're taking new tools for controlling cell function and gene expression, and looking at them in the context of a specific and clinically relevant system."

After solving the problem of enabling the T cells to act all alone as splinter cell agents, only one additional problem remains -- finding the ideal drug-switch combo to keep them on when needed, and to shut them off once the attack on the disease is complete.

If that puzzle can be solved, the therapy may prove a non-toxic approach to fight a variety of diseases such as cancer and AIDS that are countered in healthy immune systems by T cells.

The new work was published in the journal 
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  It was funded by the City of Hope's Comprehensive Cancer Center, the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By distorted620 on 4/27/2010 8:08:08 PM , Rating: 5
I dont know what splintercell has to do with anything, but this is a great idea to fight many many diseases. Using your own bodys cells to fight cancer seems to be the best way to do it. Guess our lives all just got a little longer!

RE: Splintercell?
By amanojaku on 4/27/2010 10:46:03 PM , Rating: 2
I never played the game, but Wikipedia says:
The first game explains that "Splinter Cell" refers to an elite recon-type unit of lone covert operatives (e.g. Sam Fisher) who are supported in the field by a high-tech remote team.
You know what the splinter cells are, right? That means the high-tech, remote team is the group of scientists. It's not a perfect analogy, but what the hell. There are bigger fish to fry.

RE: Splintercell?
By Omega215D on 4/28/2010 12:25:53 AM , Rating: 3
The story line of the game is about an operative that does whatever is necessary to complete an objective, often in the field by himself unlike military where it's a group set by certain rules of engagement.

It seems that these special cells can produce their own defenses and operate on their own.

RE: Splintercell?
By Qapa on 4/28/10, Rating: 0
RE: Splintercell?
By jRaskell on 4/28/2010 8:57:44 AM , Rating: 3
Remember that guy saying "nature will find a way"?

Yes, I do remember that guy. Do you remember that he was an actor, in a purely fictional movie?

RE: Splintercell?
By Qapa on 5/1/2010 8:51:12 PM , Rating: 2
Ah yes, and that surely makes it false... nice one!

RE: Splintercell?
By Redwin on 4/28/2010 10:00:35 AM , Rating: 4
I think the line was "Life will find a way", and technically we should give credit to Michael Crichton, who wrote it, and not Jeff Goldblum, who just said it on screen.

Also, I'm not sure offering lines from movies and anecdotal evidence that you "always hear about rabbit plagues" constitutes a solid argument for the dangers of engineered cell therapy.

I'm sure if you or a loved one ever needs such therapy you'll immediately refuse it while waving a copy of the Jurassic Park DVD at the doctor. =P

RE: Splintercell?
By Qapa on 5/1/2010 10:04:07 PM , Rating: 2
You're absolutely right about lines from movies.

Anecdotal evidence? Ah yes, now I could have told you to make a simple google search, or you could have made one by yourself. Since neither happened please go ahead, I'll wait :P

Ok, now that you're aware that that was true (as in, scientific facts), please allow me to make my argument of: "tampering with biology / ecosystems (macro or micro) continues to be something out of our (human) league".

Oh, and I'm not the least bothered by the down voting, it is human nature to side with the sick and probably some of you think I'm attacking them. On the contrary, I'd love to have a disease free world. But that is an impossibility of an ecosystem. And such tampering might lead to human manufactured diseases, worse than the ones we have right now...

Again, for some that are slower: I'm not saying this will happen right now, but the danger is there, and as cells multiply they have mutations and what was thought impossible once is no more.

BTW: As for Jurassic Park, it was simply stupid, because there was no offspring to create mutations and "find a way", so it means that the scientists messed up right from the start - didn't create pure females (by introducing of the DNA from some other animal).

But if you add to messing up right at the start, the multiplication which bring mutations, you end up with controlling _absolutely_ nothing.

PS: Of course facing disease directly instead of in these posts would make for a different reaction. That is not to say that although I might try the therapy, I wouldn't still believe it was wrong...

PPS: At the very least we should take some precautions for some therapies: like only doing it on people who are not going to be reproducing (decreasing risk of contaminating human kind..), etc..

PPPS: Well, human kind is de-evolving already anyway.. oh god, and no, I'm not advocating any return to middle ages in terms of medical resources nor I advocate genetic selection.. I'm just worried for the long term - not that any of us will be here then...

RE: Splintercell?
By superPC on 4/28/2010 10:29:30 AM , Rating: 2
Considering the person who wrote that line is also concern about brain implant making people have murderous intent (hasn't happened even after numerous people receiving implant) we shouldn't worry too much.

wonder what it will cost?
By albundy2 on 4/28/2010 5:47:54 AM , Rating: 2
i have a feeling it will be too rich for my blood.

RE: wonder what it will cost?
By nafhan on 4/28/10, Rating: 0
RE: wonder what it will cost?
By 67STANG on 4/28/2010 2:20:46 PM , Rating: 3
You didn't hear? In 4 years, you'll be covered. After that, you'll of course have to way 9-36 months to get treatment. But who cares, it's free. =)

RE: wonder what it will cost?
By mollick2 on 4/29/2010 4:04:33 PM , Rating: 1
you'll of course have to way 9-36 months to get treatment

you sir are an idiot.

better get me......
By Manch on 4/27/2010 10:13:30 PM , Rating: 3
a red GT500 and a hunting rifle......

RE: better get me......
By jeoyjojojrshabadoo on 4/28/2010 12:35:41 AM , Rating: 2
Ya beat me too it. I was just a bit slow on the about 2 hours. Sorry I failed to grasp your comment in the first place...much better subtly stated as you did.

Very Cool
By jeoyjojojrshabadoo on 4/28/2010 12:33:02 AM , Rating: 2
My only reservation is hollywood's take on it..."I Am Legend" anyone? Thought Will Smith did a great job in this one by the way.

By geddarkstorm on 4/28/2010 2:06:15 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, T cells do produce cytokines, that's one of their critical functions (such as Th2 cells whose cytokine secretions are part of the activation pathways that stimulate antibody production/secretion by B/plasma cells). It's just that T cells don't produce their own growth stimulating cytokines, such as IL-2 and IL-15. This is an intentional limitation in place by the body to prevent out of control growth feedback loops. We see such loops occur in many types of lymphomas, where T cells do start secreting growth stimulating cytokines, or those pathways become constitutively active through an oncogene (like via virus infection).

This is a very interesting field of study, but there's so many problems to overcome. And these aren't "super immune" cells by any means. They are simply in vitro programmed T cells (that is, they now carry a specific antigen, which they can use to program B cell antibody production, or Tc/NK cells for cell mediated immunity) given the ability to sustain their population in the body by a drug stimulation, where otherwise they'd slowly be diluted out and lost by normal T cell populations.

Let's not even get into auto-immune disorders and the roll of over zealous T cells in those...

Personally, I don't see this really taking off, though it's incredibly cool basic science (engineered RNA switched? Heck yeah! So many applications). Not with broad-spectrum antivirals, effective anticancer viral therapies and nanotech, on the way.

By Chiisuchianu on 4/28/10, Rating: -1
RE: l
By Visual on 4/28/2010 4:54:04 AM , Rating: 2

RE: l
By messyunkempt on 4/28/2010 4:57:07 AM , Rating: 4
Then I hope you catch it.

RE: l
By mostyle on 4/28/2010 6:14:31 AM , Rating: 2
Better yet, your brother or sister. Wonder how callus you'd be then?


"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki