Cure for cancer has been a never-ending question that has riddled researchers for years. Engineering and medical researchers from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities have finally had a breakthrough with their research of using engineered immune cells to increase physical immunity in cancer patients through cancer therapy.
A Brief Overview Of Cancer
It is important to understand the lifespan of each cell type before we jump into the explanation of how people get affected by cancer.
- White blood cells can live for 13 days
- Cells that are present on the outer layer of your skin can live for 30 days
- Red blood cells can survive for 12 months
- The lifespan of liver cells is 18 months
Each of the above cells dies, and new ones are formed at appropriate intervals based on the programming done in their DNAs. But changes in internal or external habits can cause the DNAs to alter their structure, allowing these aged cells to grow abnormally, leading to cancerous tumors.
Since these cells are part and parcel of the human body, the human immune system fails to recognize the abnormality until tumors have metastasized severely. Also, the DNA alteration makes the disease hereditary.
Despite the type of cancer, radiation, chemo, amputation, surgery, and immunotherapy are the main players in treatment for cancer. Radiation and chemotherapy can lead to several other diseases due to decreased immunity in patients, while amputation and surgery are impossible in all parts of the body.
The one-of-its-kind study published in Nature Research scientific journal had shown success in clinical trials of immunotherapy administered on mice. The details are as follows.
Engieered Immune Cells
T-cells that form part of the immune system present in the white blood cells are the warriors who fight against a foreign agent that enters the body. A few of the problems faced by these T-cells in fighting against cancerous tumors are:
- T- cells are unable to recognize abnormal cells until they grow into tumors
- Paolo Provenzano, the senior author of the study and a biomedical engineering associate professor in the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering says that “The tumor is sort of like an obstacle course, and the T cell has to run the gauntlet to reach the cancer cells”
- Making the T-cells strong enough to reach the cancer cells through healthy food and medication is impossible
- A few T-cells are able to break into the tumor but the pace at which they do it is 2 times slower than normal.
So, what do engineered immune cells do?
- They alter the DNA structure so as to help the immune system recognize the disease early.
- They can boost the immune system to fight longer once inside the tumor
- They also double the speed of the T-cells
- In comparison to other types of immunotherapies that have shown success in blood and organic cancer, engineered immune cells can be used to destroy any type of cancer.
How Are Engineered Immune Cells Made?
The cytotoxic T-cells are produced by altering the DNA structure using the genome-editing method. These new cells are medically termed “Myeloid cells”. Another study has found that these cells were found in abundance in areas that were vulnerable to the spread of the disease indicating where cancer would spread next.
All the studies on these scientifically modified tests have shown successful results on mice. Researchers say that these tests will be ready for clinical trials on humans after conducting a few more examinations on the affected rodents.