News / Science & Technology

Engineered Immune Cells May Yield Novel Disease Therapies

Director of the UCSF Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology Wendell Lim (UCSF).Director of the UCSF Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology Wendell Lim (UCSF).
x
Director of the UCSF Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology Wendell Lim (UCSF).
Director of the UCSF Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology Wendell Lim (UCSF).
Rick Pantaleo
Researchers in California say that someday, doctors will be able to treat serious illnesses with modified cells, adding that the technique could become as common as it is now to treat the sick with drugs.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco say novel cell therapies have the potential to address critical needs in the treatment of some of the deadliest illnesses, including diabetes, cancer and inflammatory bowel diseases.

These possibilities are described in an article published in the online journal Science Translational Medicine, co-authored by Professor Wendell Lim, who is also director of the UCSF Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology. Lim says our body’s natural disease-fighting systems could be harnessed to do much more.

“Our bodies are made of cells and we have in our bodies cells, like immune cells, that go around and protect us," said Lim. "So, they actually carry out complex therapeutic functions.  What we just haven’t really found a lot about is the idea that we can actually use these cells, these living sort of entities, as the actual medicine.”

Lim says researchers have been developing complex new cell therapy strategies that build on our growing knowledge of how genes program the development and inner workings of cells.

For example, because the body’s natural immune response to spreading cancer cells is often weak, scientists are engineering and growing populations of immune cells that target specific molecules found on cancer cells.   Lim said that there have already been some remarkable cancer recoveries that can be credited to these experimental cell therapy treatments.

“In the last year or two, there have been some other really exciting findings that have shown that the idea of using cells as therapies maybe have some real legs [can exist and be successful]," he said. "One of them is that people have started taking out immune cells from patients who have cancer and actually engineering them to now attack and kill that cancer.  And, that’s turned out to be remarkably effective for a handful of patients with leukemia and lymphoma that have been treated with this kind of engineered immune cell.”

As with any proposed new medical treatment, the cell therapies that are currently being developed will face lengthy and rigorous testing by independent laboratories and regulatory agencies before they can be put to regular use.
 
But Lim says the testing will not only protect any of those who may use the therapies, but may also play an important role in further developing and refining the therapies themselves.

“You know a lot of drugs that we use as therapeutics started out as some natural product within the bark of some tree," he said. "And really that’s not a very controlled way of treating a disease. You have to know how to purify that compound, how to make variants of it that optimize the efficiency, but also minimize toxicity.  These are the type of things that we need to be able to do to cells to make this viable.”
 
Lim and his colleagues are conducting a daylong symposium on April 12 to discuss the future of cell therapy.  The meeting will feature talks by some of the nation's leading researchers and biomedical scientists to see if cell-based therapies can someday become a viable pillar of medicine.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More