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

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid