Researchers Develop Synthetic T-Cells
Published: 2018-06-27 |
UCLA researchers have developed synthetic T lymphocytes, or T cells, that are near-perfect facsimiles of human T cells. The ability to create the artificial cells could be a key step toward more effective drugs to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases and could lead to a better understanding of human immune cells behavior. Such cells also could eventually be used to boost the immune system of people with cancer or immune deficiencies.
The research team comprised scientists from the UCLA School of Dentistry, the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering and the department of chemistry and biochemistry in the UCLA College, and was led by Dr. Alireza Moshaverina, an assistant professor of prosthodontics and the dental school. The findings are published in the journal Advanced Materials.
"The complex structure of T cells and their multifunctional nature have made if difficult for scientists to replicate them in the lab," Moshaverina said. "With this breakthrough, we can use synthetic T cells to engineer more efficient drug carriers and understand the behavior of immune cells."
Natural T cells are difficult to use in research because they're very delicate, and because after they're extracted from humans and other animals, they tend to survive for only a few days. "We were able to create a novel class of artificial T cells that are capable of boosting a host's immune system by actively interacting with immune cells through direct contact, activation or releasing inflammatory or regulatory signals," said Mohammad Mahdi Hasani-Sadradadi, an assistant project scientist at UCLA Samueli. "We see this study's findings as another tool to attack cancer cells and other carcinogens."
T cells play a key role in the immune system. They are activated when infection enters the body and they flow through the bloodstream to reach the infected areas. Because they must squeeze between small gaps and pores. T cells have the ability to deform too, as small as one-quarter of their normal size. They also can grow to almost three times their original size, which helps them fight off or overcome the antigens that attack the immune system.
Until recently, bioengineers hadn't been able to mimic the complex nature of human T cells. UCLA researchers were able to replicate their shape, size and flexibility, which enable it to perform its basic functions of targeting and homing in on infections.