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 Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid