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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid