Reprogrammed T Cells to be the Novel Cell-Based Cancer Therapy in Future

The T cells are a group of white blood cells. The letter T stands for thymus, an organ responsible for the maturation of these cells. These cells play an essential role in the protection of the body from external threats and in autoimmune disorders. Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute have developed a method that kills tumour cells and inhibits tumour growth in the experimental mice in laboratory.

The technique is found to be successful until its latest trails. Though the technique is yet to be extended on humans, scientists believe that it can emerge as an effective cell-based cancer therapy in future. This article tries to gain further insight on this novel cancer research.

What the Research Comprised of: The researchers were trying to find out immune system cell types which can combat with cancer clinically. Their studies discovered that a gene called Bcl11b was essential for the normal development of immune system cells. A gene is a chemical instruction followed by a cell to function normally. The role of Bcl11b gene in the development of T cells was of particular interest to the researchers.

As a part of their research work, the scientists converted T cells into cells similar to Natural Killer cell types. These cells are also the part of immune system (technical name of the natural protection system of the body) along with T cells. But they specialize in providing protection against viruses and cancer cells in particular.

Knowledge Gained from the Research:

  • The researcher learnt that the Bcl11b gene played its vital role in the initial phases of the production of T cells.
  • When this gene was removed from the cells of the experimental mice, the production of T cells stopped.
  • Instead a novel cell type which the researchers named “the Induced T to Natural Killer cells”, were produced in the mice.
  • The ITNK cells were discovered to be more effective than the NK cells and successfully destroyed lymphoma and melanoma cells in test tubes.
  • The effect of these cells was tested on cancer by injecting tumor cells in the laboratory mice.
  • It was found that the growth of tumor was inhibited by 10 times in these mice when compared to the growth of tumor in unprogrammed normal laboratory mice.
  • This confirmed that these reprogrammed cells stopped the metastasis of cancer (technical name for the spread of cancer from one location to the rest of the body parts).
  • The cells were found to target only the malignant cells leaving the normal cells unharmed.
  • These cells can survive for a period of three months and there were no evidences of any abnormalities in the laboratory mice with these reprogrammed cells, much to the delight of the researchers.

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